The campus breadwinners
Group flips to-be-discarded food to the plates of the needy
Published: Thursday, January 23, 2014
Updated: Thursday, January 30, 2014 22:01
Succulent pulled pork, creamy mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese and roasted vegetables are frequent items on the menu at Twin City Mission, a homeless shelter in Bryan. These new menu options can be credited to a new student organization that seeks to serve the Brazos Valley community.
In the fall of 2013, Lindy Nelson, junior international studies major, founded the Texas A&M chapter of the Food Recovery Network, a national organization with college chapters across the country whose members collect the unsold food from their campus dining halls and donate it to people in their communities.
“We as students can get so worried about everything we’re doing in our lives, and our school, our grades and our organizations and our little bubble of College Station,” said Kyle Chandler, junior petroleum engineering major.
Nelson said before the Food Recovery Network was established at Texas A&M, all unsold food at University dining halls was thrown away.
Sbisa Dining Hall freezes its unsold food every night, Nelson said, and donates approximately 250 pounds of food every Monday and Thursday to the organization.
Nelson said she had been told by Sbisa that before the organization’s founding, the dining hall threw away 500 pounds of food per day. A substantial portion of those 500 pounds consisted of food half-eaten by students, which is not donated to the network. However, Nelson said by selecting smaller portions of food at the buffet-style dining halls, students can still further reduce the waste of food.
Nelson said she first heard about the network from a friend who is actively involved in the program at Brown University and said she saw the network as a wonderful opportunity to help the community. However, Nelson’s founding of and involvement with the network was not her first volunteer experience.
Nelson had been on multiple mission trips in the past, including two to Guatemala, but said the mission trip that impacted her most was her mission trip to Denver, Colo.
“When people think of starvation, a lot of times they think just of Third World countries,” Nelson said. “People don’t think to go to a mission trip somewhere in the United States. They think, ‘There are homeless people in downtown Denver?’ But there are.”
Inspired to help the people in her community, Nelson said this experience led her to start the Food Recovery Network chapter.
“I don’t think enough students know about the issue of food conservation, or that there are needy people close-by in our community,” said Tyler Nuckols, senior recreation, park and tourism science major.
Nelson echoed similar sentiments.
“It changed the way that I looked at service within the community that I live in,” Nelson said. “My community has given me so much and I can give back instead of necessarily going elsewhere.”
Twin City Mission — to which the chapter Nelson founded donates its food — serves meals to more than 100 people per day. Nelson said the shelter noted a drastic increase in the quality and the abundance of nutrition available to the needy.
“The few times you go to Bryan you do kind of see the poverty in the area,” Chandler said. “But still, it’s not something we think about all the time. It’s not something we see or hear about on a daily basis, and it’s easy to put other people out of your mind rather than help them.”
The network has taken strides in just more than a semester of existence, yet Nelson said she is looking at ways to expand the movement of food conservation. As of now, the network has three donating businesses: Sbisa Dining Hall; Einstein Bros. Bagels, with two on campus locations; and Panera Bread, located off campus.
“There is still so much room for growth here at A&M,” Nelson said.
Nuckols said he hopes the network will grant more visibility to people in need and at the same time inspire other people to get involved.
“We get caught up in our own lives and our studies,” Nuckols said. “I don’t think that people realize that there are people out there that are in need. I certainly didn’t, until I heard about FRN. I definitely think that people need more visibility and more people need to get involved in this organization.”
Nelson said she hopes to gain support from more dining halls on campus as well as some off-campus housing locations that serve buffet-style meals.
“It would be so great to get the whole community giving back to those within our own community,” Nelson said. “There are many people that say, ‘Eat your food, there are hungry people in Africa that would love that,’ but what we forget is that there are hungry people right here in Bryan.”