What a single Food Recovery Network chapter can do is limitless, as the Goucher College Chapter in Baltimore, MD demonstrates on a weekly basis. Under the direction of Micah Heaney (in partnership with Norman Zwagil, Food Manager at Bon Appetit Management Company), the chapter is making solid contributions to campus life. The chapter supports a remarkable nonprofit, Project PLASE (People Lacking Adequate Shelter and Employment), under the leadership of Mary Slicher, its founding director since 1973. These three individuals, working together, have made significant progress in improving the lives of Baltimore’s homeless and low-income individuals and families. Micah and his fellow student board members are learning valuable leadership skills in the process while educating fellow Goucher students on important issues related to food.
To conduct Goucher’s food recovery, Micah has formed a team of four or five like-minded student volunteers, what he calls his “chapter board,” who retrieve food twice a week for Project PLASE. In fact, Micah calls them his “best friends year after year” whose “passion and thoughtfulness is very inspiring.” He is also impressed “by the professionalism and heart” of the FRN national leadership; “they care for each other, their chapters, and our mission.” Micah has worked with FRN since 2013 and is currently a Regional Outreach Coordinator, where he supports 17 FRN chapters in Maryland, Delaware, and eastern Pennsylvania. In that role, he is always looking for ways that FRN may expand its student operations and develop chapters. Learn more about the Regional Outreach Coordinators here.
On the Goucher campus, Micah has recently developed a relationship with certain classes, such as the Psychology of Environmental Problems, whose professors provide students credit for their service with FRN. The chapter works in close contact with Norman Zwagil, the manager of Bon Appetit, which provides food for the campus’s three dining areas. Since the founding of the chapter in 2013, Norman has become all the more dedicated to promoting food recovery. He calls it a crime that in our country, approximately 40% of college-prepared food is thrown away, and has personally done much to rectify the situation at Goucher.
"Since the founding of the chapter in 2013, Norman has become all the more dedicated to promoting food recovery. He calls it a crime that in our country, approximately 40% of college-prepared food is thrown away"
Besides overseeing twice-weekly food recoveries, he has worked with the FRN chapter to raise awareness of food issues on campus. One example is their joint sponsorship of a campus screening of “Fed Up,” a film about surplus food in America. Norman gives talks to classes about the imbalance between, “the huge volume of surplus food in this country contrasted by the large number of food insecure people...who go hungry and/or are underfed.” He promotes the concept of “proper portioning” to cut down on student waste. He is proud to say that Bon Appetit has become Food Recovery Verified “because we believe in the program.”
Verification means FRN lists and promotes Goucher’s Bon Appetit program with other select verified programs at campuses across the country. (More information about Food Recovery Verified is here.) He also takes pride in the role he plays in helping promote Project PLASE’s food service for the homeless and low-income families. One of Norman’s most memorable experiences was visiting a Project PLASE dining hall and hearing the personal stories of the people whom his kitchens have directly helped.
Project PLASE’s stated mission is to address homelessness in Baltimore by providing both transitional and permanent housing along with other supportive services to homeless adults. Mary Slicher, its stalwart founding director, emphasizes that “we treat, restore and rehabilitate the whole person.” According to its mission statement, PLASE’s purpose is to “serve the most vulnerable and underserved, including persons with mental illness, HIV/AIDS, addiction, developmental disabilities, and ex-offenders, etc.” In 1973, Mary started PLASE while a student herself and thus has the highest respect for students and what they can do to promote social justice. She praises the work done by the Goucher chapter in delivering food in an on-going basis to one of its two main kitchens.
"In 1973, Mary started PLASE while a student herself and thus has the highest respect for students and what they can do to promote social justice."
Mary especially appreciates the students’ dedication as demonstrated recently by a lunch they shared with PLASE clients in one of its dining halls. The students were so moved by the personal stories told by the residents at the luncheon that they volunteered to paint one of their dining halls. They made a deep impact on the residents as well. According to Mary, “The partnership means a great deal to staff and to residents! The residents loved the interaction and interest of the students and talked about it for several weeks.”
Food recovered from Goucher helps feed approximately 70 people three times per day, including 18 American service veterans. The first recovered Goucher meal, served three years ago, was “a big pan of wraps and tacos,” and the clients, as Mary describes it, “wanted to know if we hired a new cook!” She appreciates the fact that the food is both tasty and healthy, which is important for her residents who have a variety of serious health issues, such as diabetes and HIV. Mary emphasizes that, “students make a big difference and their values get formed and focused during these times.”
"Students make a big difference and their values get formed and focused during these times.”
This belief perfectly complements Micah’s assessment of why the FRN chapter has outlasted many other student-run organizations at Goucher: “Our organization is real, our people are real, our values are real. The work we have taken on is incredibly real, and incredibly challenging. Perhaps that’s why it keeps going: FRN is actively finding itself, and in the process accomplishing the unexpected.” With such inspired leadership as Micah’s, it is no wonder that the Goucher chapter continues to grow and find new ways to promote food equity, not only in Baltimore and Maryland, but also in Delaware and eastern Pennsylvania.