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Students find a new way to fight food waste

By Mary Drury | mdrury4@radford.edu & Robert Arcuri | rarcuri@radford.edu

Radford University starts a new chapter called the Food Recovery Network.

The mission of the organization is to re-allocate food from dining services to food insecure residents in the county. The first delivery occurred March 18th.

If solving a problem like ending food waste was as easy as completing a homework assignment, would you do it?

This is how Tucker Morgan, a Radford junior economics major and communications minor, feels about taking the initiative to ignite a chapter on campus called the Food Recovery Network (FRN).

Robert and Brooke putting packed food in boxes.
Brooke Love and Robert Arcuri Organizing Collected Inventory.

Morgan became inspired to find a way to end food waste when he learned that 40 percent of consumable food in America is thrown away every year; yet, one-sixth of the citizens go hungry. This is due to improper allocation of food and money.

What many do not know is that Radford itself suffers from food insecurity. In fact, approximately 40 percent of Radford residents fall below the poverty line.

This is the lowest of all counties in Virginia as of 2013.

FRN “is the largest student movement against food waste and hunger in America,” according to foodrecoverynetwork.org. This is no wonder, for they have about 230 chapters across the nation since 2011 made up of primarily college students.

Food recovery for FRN is the process of redistributing food from places like college campus’ and partnering with hunger-fighting organizations, such as a food bank or shelter in the community, to donate food to people in need.

FRN is not the only way to fight food insecurity in Radford though; there are a few other volunteer efforts which provide services to the community which Brooke Love, alumni and Marketing Director of Dining Services at Radford University, explains.

Beans and Rice is an after-school program at the local elementary schools Belle Heth and McHarg. This program serves to prepare donations for in-need families in Radford directly, as well as allows for emergency food for when schools close due to circumstances such as severe weather.

The Radford Bobcat Backpacks works with Radford City Public Schools to provide food for students for the weekend year-round. The group formed in January 2016 as “an autonomous program run by community members” when it was realized that “Approximately 50% of Radford City Public School children qualify for free lunch.” [https://www.facebook.com/pg/BobcatBackpacks/about/].

One club here on campus, the Selu Garden and Service Club, grows produce for New River Valley residents in the area.

Group photo placing food in bins and inventorying.
Following proper food storage protocol to ensure the reallocation of safe food for those in need.

What are the next steps for FRN at Radford?

Now for the organizers, it is vital to spread the word about the chapter so that the organization can have as many volunteers as possible.

The first food pick-up and drop off date is March 18th and will be performed by the RU Sustainability Internship Team in conjunction with Radford’s Dining Services. With the success of the first run, there are plans to turn the volunteer initiative into a weekly event.

After the first drop off event, our understanding of the astonishingly high amount of food waste left a desire to turn the occasional pick-ups into a weekly event.

For future volunteer efforts, Morgan encourages everyone to come out and help as much as they can. Have the motivation to solve a problem, he says, it is as easy as getting the work done.

Photo Credit: (Robert Arcuri-Contributing Writer)

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