With an average of 12 to 15 recoveries each week, our SUNY ESF and Syracuse University FRN chapter has learned to manage a large operation. We continually discuss ways to expand and grow our influence in the broader Syracuse community. The concept driving our expansion was clear this semester: “How can we effectively and appropriately connect with our partner agencies beyond recovered food?” During a planning meeting to determine how to allocate our budget, we decided that we wanted to devote our financial resources to bolstering the nonprofit agencies we care so deeply about in new and unique ways.
With nine committed partner agencies serving hundreds of individuals daily, the support we provide through our recovered food is essential to their success. What is important to consider, and what we have realized over recent semesters, is that food certainly does not represent quality of life as a whole. Instead, quality of life is is dependent upon love, connection, and comfort in addition to the most basic resources. We felt that it was our responsibility, as a functioning and capable network of caring volunteers, to consider how we could provide new resources and supplies. Our first step was clear: Reach out.
Food certainly does not represent quality of life as a whole.
“The FRN Agency Supply Survey” was our method of reaching out so that we could support our partner agencies on a new level. We designed questions, keeping in mind that some agencies might need food handling materials, while others might be more interested in non-food related items. We created a Google Document that both our Executive Board (E-board) and our partner agencies could access and edit. Our survey was quite open ended, we simply asked: “Please provide a short list of things you want or need...along with approximate quantities. As we are working with multiple agencies, we will do our best to fulfill your request to the best of our ability. :) ”
The results? Everything we could have hoped for and then some. Our partner agencies fully embraced the idea, and we received immediate responses from five of them. Some of the items were to be expected, such as food recovery materials, including food storage containers, gloves for handling food and clear wrap or tin foil. However, some agencies also requested notebooks and writing utensils for both residents to use and for office operations. Hats, gloves and socks were priorities for some given the cold weather. Others asked for cleaning supplies such as brooms and dustpans in order to maintain clean spaces for their residents.
One request, that was a pleasant surprise, was for volunteers to assist with the agency’s after school programming. To address this request, we created a connection with an environmental education club on campus called the Student Environmental Education Coalition (SEEC). They agreed to teach some lessons next semester to the children who visit the nonprofit partner agency.
We are currently in the process of ordering and procuring the items that were requested, which we are able to do thanks to our lively fundraising and devoted budget management. We raised funds through sponsored Chipotle fundraisers, a ‘Breakfast with FRNds’ and other on-campus initiatives. Maintaining a strong relationship with our school advisor allows us to track expenses. Our fundraising initiatives enable us to accrue resources beyond what is fundamentally essential for recoveries alone. This initiative is ongoing, but certainly something we feel can and should be replicated in FRN chapters across the country.
Communication with partner agencies beyond recoveries can lead to stronger, healthier, and more beneficial relationships. Surveying is an excellent tool for gauging how a chapter can best support their partner agencies beyond food. It is crucial to consider where we can help beyond fighting hunger because food does not represent quality of life entirely. Now that our E-board has made this project possible, we are confident that we can continue to address the additional needs of our partner agencies in the future. This type of project is ideal for E-boards who want to collaborate with their partner agencies further and are confident with the food recovery process.
We are excited that agency supply surveys could spread to other chapters, and hope we can help with any questions or ideas regarding the process.
Our Executive Board can be contacted through our Facebook page or email: