By Elizabeth Cobb
The Food Recovery Network (FRN) is a 501c3 nonprofit organization that has chapters on college campuses across the United States. The original FRN chapter was founded by Ben Simon and Mia Zavalij at the University of Maryland in 2011 and has expanded to dozens of chapters across the US. Since then, the Food Recovery Network has recovered about 470,000 pounds of food collectively and that number is constantly growing.
“The idea to open a chapter of the Food Recovery Network at UM-Dearborn sparked from a research essay I did on the impact the Urban Agriculture movement has had on the issue of food insecurity, malnutrition, and poor health in Detroit,” said University of Michigan-Dearborn FRN Chapter President, Kelsey Griffin. She continues, “After realizing how prominent food insecurity was in this area, I looked into different ways I could make an impact. I knew that opening a chapter at UM-Dearborn would have a lot of potential, and we’ve gained a lot of interest and support since we started working to establish this organization the first day of the Fall 2014 semester.”
The goal of the Food Recovery Network is to fight food waste and feed people. There is a huge paradox between the amounts of food our community alone wastes, and the number of people that still don’t know where they’ll be getting their next meal.
In Wayne County, one in seven people are food insecure, yet at the same time, food waste is the largest component of our landfills.
The Food Recovery Network is focused on fighting hunger locally. While it’s great to see the national impact the combined efforts (with other chapters across the U.S.) have made, the UM-Dearborn Food Recovery Network chapter is focused on fighting hunger in Wayne County.
FRN recovers food from dining halls, restaurants, and businesses, not necessarily individuals. However, they encourage donating your non-perishable foods (canned foods, peanut butter and jelly, crackers, etc.) to the student pantry in the CIVIC office.
Planning to begin recovering excess food from the McKinley café and Picasso Restaurant Group catering events in the beginning of November, they hope to reach out to local restaurants and businesses, or even get involved in gleaning in the near future in order to increase the impact made in the Dearborn/Detroit area.
Essentially, three to five people go to the designated food donor (in this case, Picasso Restaurant Group), and package up the excess consumable food that did not get eaten/sold that day. This includes entrees, desserts, buffet items, condiments, fresh produce, dairy products, and fresh or frozen meat that were not served. After packaging, the food is transported to local food banks and pantries, such as St. Patrick’s Food Pantry, right across from the UM Detroit center in Midtown Detroit, with which they established a partnership.
“Anyone is welcome to join,” said Griffin. “The more people that get involved, the bigger the impact we can make.”
The more people getting involved means not only more hands to help collect the food, but a spread of awareness to our food waste problem. Anyone interested in volunteering should ‘like’ the Facebook page at UM-Dearborn Food Recovery Network. For updates, email the volunteer coordinator, Fiana Arbab (email@example.com).
Since the UM-Dearborn FRN chapter is only a few months old, the team is focusing on getting into a regular schedule of food recoveries.
“However, we plan to also hold awareness events on campus with hopes of making people more conscientious of the problem after they leave campus,” said Griffin. “We are working hard to pursue our primary goals of fighting food waste and food insecurity.”