#FRNSpeaks: Lawrence University, Bon Appétit Management Company, and St. Joseph's Food Program

At Lawrence University’s FRN Chapter, Co-Presidents Sarah Diamond and Lindsay Holsen work to alleviate food insecurity in the Fox Cities Valley of Wisconsin.

“Don’t just learn. Engage.” The motto of Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin, is certainly an apt description of what the students involved in the school’s Food Recovery Network chapter do every day. Education and engagement stretch beyond the boundaries of the campus to include some thirty cities, towns, and villages in three counties of northeastern Wisconsin, known as the Fox Cities Valley. In the 2015-2017 academic years, two students, Sarah Diamond (International Relations) and Lindsay Holsen (Biochemistry and Spanish) led the FRN chapter as co-presidents. As they reflect on each other’s growth through Lawrence University and FRN, each lovingly praises the other.

Sarah and Lindsay began volunteering with FRN during their first years of college and feel that their food recovery experiences have given them “so, so much,” as Sarah puts it. “It shaped me as a person. In my professional career, hunger and food security are always going to be my bottom lines. It’s something that just makes me cringe, the fact that people are hungry.” Sarah’s hopes will come true in August when she starts her Year of Service through the AmeriCorps VISTA program with the FRN national office in College Park, Maryland.

Lindsay calls their entire team of nine students a “stellar crew.” “We had the chance to tour Feeding America in Appleton, have an annual end-of-year barbecue to celebrate our work, and definitely know how to rock a hairnet,” she recalls. Lindsay’s three years working with FRN student volunteers, partner organizations, and chefs from the Bon Appétit Management Company (BAMCO), the dining provider at Lawrence University, taught her to navigate ever-changing connections. “I experienced the many difficulties of maintaining relationships with groups that frequently change management. However, I have also seen so many people benefit from the food we provide and others who become more aware of the [impact of] their actions.” Lindsay, like Sarah, sees that  her work over the last three years “has shaped my dedication to serving others and working to change mindsets about waste within many aspects of society.” She will continue as the chapter’s treasurer in Fall 2017.

The Lawrence University leadership team participating in a food recovery. 

The Lawrence University leadership team participating in a food recovery. 

Mark Biesack, Executive Sous Chef at Bon Appétit Management Company at Lawrence University, is “proud to be affiliated with FRN”.

Mark Biesack stands out among the many inspirational people whom Sarah and Lindsay have met through their food recovery efforts. Mark is proud of the dramatic change he has seen over the past few years at Lawrence University. Students have more interest in what kind of food is chosen, how it is prepared, and what his staff does with items they don’t serve. Mark’s many years of experience inform his perception of food awareness at Lawrence:

“With the needs of others being highly publicized these days, people are wanting to be a part of something GOOD. This is especially true of college students. Students are asking questions and taking an interest. They want to make sure that not only are we sourcing our food responsibly, but that we are discarding it appropriately as well, whether that be composting or donating through FRN.”

Mark describes how BAMCO, before working with FRN, tried doing their own food recovery programs for the first couple years at Lawrence. Even though he built a relationship with the local Salvation Army, the logistics of recovering and donating food were difficult.

“While we had extra food to donate, we didn’t have the systems, pans, labor, or organization to make it happen on a regular basis. Now that we’ve partnered with Food Recovery Network, it’s so awesome to know that all we need to do is compile our donation, chill it down, and [the students] take care of it from there!”

Mark has a very high opinion of the FRN team with whom his staff has a “great relationship.” He especially enjoys seeing student leaders in the hallway who tell him about a new organization looking for food donations. He would very much like to increase the number of food collections from the current number of three days.

In Appleton, Wisconsin, the home of Lawrence University, nearly 1 out of 5 people lives at or below the poverty level.

One day early in 1982, while Thomas Schlitz was driving to Green Bay, Wisconsin, he heard on the radio that 400 people were being laid off by a local company. His immediate reaction was to ask how these people were going to survive. After Schlitz saw fields full of crops around him, he had the inspiration to ask local farmers for relief donations. This generous initiative would eventually become the St. Joseph Food Program, now run by St. Joseph’s Church in Appleton, WI.

In Spring 2016, The Lawrence FRN chapter partnered with St. Joe’s (as it’s called informally) to help distribute 30 tons of fresh food and non-perishable items, per week, to the low-income and temporarily unemployed population of the Fox Cities Valley. According to Scott Schefe, the food manager at St. Joe’s, FRN volunteers delivered 118 pounds of food the first day alone. His clients “loved the food, especially since it was already prepared and portioned. It made it very easy on us.” Both St. Joe’s and the students look forward to building a stronger relationship in the 2017-2018 school year.

The chapter has also teamed with the Fox Cities Salvation Army and Boys and Girls Club of the Fox Valley. Sarah’s favorite memories with Boys and Girls Club were “just sitting
with and watching the kids trying new foods they had never tried before...There was one girl especially, who had never eaten a vegetable in her life. I sat with her while she ate a carrot, and told her that she could do it. She did, and was like, ‘Hey, that’s not bad!’ It’s so powerful for kids to learn about food.” Sarah views educating others about healthy eating habits as a powerful and exciting mission of the Food Recovery Network.

The future looks bright

When Lindsay returns to Lawrence in Fall 2017, she hopes to help bring in “new leadership and energy for the group” and reach out to other organizations to increase food deliveries. From what he has already said, Executive Sous Chef Mark Bieseck will undoubtedly be in full support. Sarah Diamond is currently working full-time as the Alumni Programs VISTA on the FRN National staff. She sees Food Recovery Network as “among one of the most politically important organizations out there right now. It’s an organization that goes against the status quo and sees people as humans rather than wallets or numbers.”

Last summer, both Sarah and Lindsay attended Food Recovery Network’s annual conference, the National Food Recovery Dialogue. Sarah was especially moved when she heard a student talk about growing up not knowing from where his next meal would come. His childhood deeply affected his decision to work for FRN “to ensure that no other kid has to feel that way.” Sarah, someone who has never suffered from food insecurity, empathized with this and other speakers. Empathy is the driving force behind the selfless efforts of the Lawrence FRN team.

Lawrence University FRN attends the National Food Recovery Dialogue

Lawrence University FRN attends the National Food Recovery Dialogue