By: Gabriela Sampsell (Loyola Senior)
International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste was September 29th, and Loyola’s Food Recovery Network reminded the community that 40% of all food in America is sadly wasted. This issue of food waste and food insecurity is a systemic problem; this is where Food Reocvery Network comes into play.
The Food Recovery Network is a National Non-Profit Organization, founded by college students. Their mission is “Fighting Waste. Feeding People,” by actively working with Loyola’s Dining services to recover and reutilize wasted food on campus. They strive to bring to local Food Pantries, such as Just Harvest, and to give back to the local Rogers Park Community. They hope to provide high-quality food to those in need while simultaneously educating students, faculty, and administration on the importance of reducing food waste.
The Vice President of Food Recovery Network, Paige Kipka, 20, has a passion for environmental issues and found her calling to give back to the local community with the Food Recovery Network. She first joined the FRN her freshman year loved that it focused on social and enviornmental issues. Now a Junior, she has been the Vice President for this past year, and wishes to motivate and educate others on campus about this issue.
*Interview has been edited for length and clarity*
Rogers Edge Reporter: Tell me about the process of recovering Loyola’s food and how the Food Recovery Network distributes the recovered food?
Paige Kipka: The process of recovering food happens at both the Damen and Simpson Dining Halls. For a long time, up until this semester, the food was left for us in the fridge and we would go down into the kitchen of the Damen Dining Hall. We would then package that food and we put it into our bins that we use in conjunction Just Harvest and then we transport them to the Local Food Pantries. Recently the process has become easier, as an effort to limit cross contamination. We now pull into the alleyway behind Simpson, where they already have the food packaged for us. It’s a little bit less hands on for our volunteers, but I do think that food safety is very, very important and like shouldn’t be the number one priority for the people receiving that food.
RER: How did you initally hear about the Food Recovery Network and what was your personal motivation and your passion for joining the organization?
Kipka: I found Food Recovery Network at the organization fair my freshman year and I think I was always really passionate about environmental issues. I think just growing up in this era, I’ve always saw these problems around me and I wanted to stop complaining about it and be a part of a solution. So I felt like Food Recovery Network did a really good job of focusing on social and environmental issues and how those are intertwined.
RER: How does the Food Recovery Network engage and motivate fellow students to participate actively recovering the food?
Kipka: We encourage active participation for recovering the food which happens on Saturdays, where we package the food up, bring it into a van and then transport it to the food pantry. Another way that we get students involved is our general body meetings where we do fun activities and it’s a way for us to kind of like check on our members and also thank them for volunteering.
RER: How do you like build and maintain the relationships with local food banks and what do they do when they receive the food from you?
Kipka: Just Harvest, a food pantry in West Rogers Park, has been our partner, since Food Recovery Network was founded in 2013, so we did not form that initial relationship. Our advisor Kevin Erickson, and the original students that formed Food Recovery Network were the ones who were kind of responsible for making that initial contact. In terms of maintaining contact, we let them tell us what to do. This is their space. This is where they work and we want to do everything that we can to be accommodating to them. And that includes not having our donations be a burden, we want to make that process as easy as possible, because obviously it’s a food pantry and nonprofits are severely underserved a lot of times.
RER: How does the Food Recovery Network ensure that food recovery efforts inclusive and address the needs of all community members?
Kipka: Our partner, Just Harvest, is responsible for cooking the recovered food, making it look delicious again, because it was frozen and transported. They go on to serve that food to anybody who needs it in the Rogers Park community. We think it’s really important to serve the Rogers Park community because obviously that’s where the Loyola campus is located. But not only that, it’s a extremely ethnically and socioeconomically diverse community. Another thing that we helped develop is Loyola’s student food pantry. So we have also been trying to battle food insecurity within Loyola’s community and not just in Rogers Park, and I definitely feel like that’s a really important inclusive move that we have made because there are students fighting with food insecurity and will benefit from the food pantry on campus.
RER: That is an amazing development and a great way for Loyola to help their students struggling with, an often overlooked issue, food insecurity. How do you see the Food Recovery Network contributing to raising awareness about food waste reduction and sustainability on campus?
Kipka: We have a Rambler Recovery Week, that happens towards the end of the semester. Where we ask people whose Dining Dollars are just going to be wasted to spend that money on bulk food items. So we’ll get spaghetti noodles, oats and a lot of things that can be preserved and that the food pantry really needs and values. I think people are shocked a lot of the times that an institution like Loyola would have food waste, because it would just seem like somebody would have a job of doing the math of figuring out how much food students at Loyola need. Sadly, a lot of industries don’t have that process and that’s why there is so much food waste. I think we do a really good job of kind of like throwing the stats out there. This organization changes your idea about food waste. It’s not your half eaten hamburger that you couldn’t finish at lunch. It is pounds and pounds of these super delicious things that you wonder why somebody would throw that away but sometimes there isn’t enough people to eat those things are the people who need the food are just not at the right place at the right time with the right privileges. Access to food should not be a privilege, and thats what we are fighting to change.
Food Recovery Network’s next General Body meeting is October 16th, and is a Volunteer Training and Restaurant Night at 5:00pm.