WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. - In an effort to fight food waste and to help those in need, the Lycoming College Sustainability Committee has teamed up with the Food Recovery Network (FRN) to save surplus food in the college’s dining hall and donate it to the local American Rescue Workers’ (ARW) shelter. Lycoming recently became the 50th chapter of the FRN in the nation.
According Liz Whiteman, FRN new chapter coordinator, the organization unites college students at campuses across the country to help save some of the more than 36 million tons of food that is wasted in the United States each year by collecting leftover food from dining halls and donating it to community members in need. Since September 2011, it has expanded to 50 schools and has recovered more than 245,000 pounds of food that would otherwise have been wasted.
Students from Lycoming’s Sustainability Committee learned about the network while attending the annual meeting of the Pennsylvania Environmental Resource Consortium in State College last October. Senior Emily Vebrosky took the initiative to contact FRN to see how Lycoming’s students could help.
“Lynette (Dooley), Samantha (Hewitt) and I began having meetings with various people around campus to make sure we would be able to incorporate the program into our campus,” Vebrosky said. “It took almost three months until we made our first recovery, but it was worth all of the work.”
Around the same time, Michael Kane, a 2013 Lycoming graduate and ARW men’s program director, independently reached out to Leslie Ekstrand, general manager of Parkhurst, Lycoming’s dining services provider, and inquired about creating a similar program to repurpose leftover food. Ekstrand put him in touch with the sustainability committee and the partnership with ARW was formed shortly thereafter.
Kane says that ARW is the only men’s homeless shelter in the area and most or all of their 69 beds are filled every night. Generally, they serve a couple hundred meals per day and are grateful to have the donations.
“The recovery project food has been a blessing in relieving the burden of preparing the entrees every day,” Kane said. “Along with feeding our residents, we have been able to feed more people off of the streets. I am only aware of five or six free dinners offered in Williamsport each month, so being able to say yes to hungry people who aren’t on our program has been a positive change for this community.”
The students began recovering food in mid-January and during the first two weeks of the program, they saved more than 500 pounds of food from being wasted, sometimes saving up to 93.5 pounds in a single day. In order to recover such a large amount of food, students visit the dining hall daily, after lunch and dinner, to pick up containers of surplus food that have been packaged and weighed by Parkhurst staff members. The students then deliver the food to the ARW shelter.
Even though the recovery has only recently begun, Whiteman is very pleased by the students’ dedication to the cause.
“They’ve been recovering five days a week, up to twice a day, which is really impressive and shows true dedication to fighting waste and feeding people,” Whiteman said. “We’re so happy to have an official chapter at Lycoming College and are excited to help them grow.”
The Lycoming joins Allegheny College, Penn State Erie and Mercyhurst University as the fourth campus in Pennsylvania to participate in the program.
Lycoming College is a four-year, residential liberal arts and sciences school dedicated to the undergraduate education of 1,400 students. Its rigorous academic program, vibrant residential community and supportive faculty foster successful student outcomes. Lycoming offers 36 academic majors and is recognized as a Tier 1 institution by U.S. News & World Report. Founded in 1812 and located near the banks of the Susquehanna River in Williamsport, Pa., Lycoming is one of the 50 oldest colleges in the nation. For more information, visit www.lycoming.edu.