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Group aims at food recovery

BY CHRIS HIGGINS | APRIL 09, 2014 5:00 AM

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Unopened ramen packages left in dorm rooms could soon be in the hands of those in need if a University of Iowa student organization comes to fruition.

UI sophomore John Sheeley, decided to create a chapter of Food Recovery Network at the UI a month ago. Participants collect unused food from places such as dining halls that would otherwise be thrown away and transport it to food banks and homeless shelters.

Sheeley joined five other students to create the group.

“It struck me as a kind of a no-brainer type of deal,” he said. “There’s obviously going to be some work implementing the [Food Recovery Network], but it’s not so much work that it’s not worth it. With the amount of food the university goes through, you can move so much food out to these shelters.”

An established Johnson County food-recovery organization is eager to provide support.

Table to Table volunteer coordinator David Wellendorf said Table to Table would provide the students with training in food safety, volunteer training, vehicles, and equipment. As students, he said, they are well poised to recover food from around the UI.

“These guys will hopefully be involved with university stuff,” Wellendorf said. “They can get more refined in picking up the daily stuff and in all of the little places that you have food.”

The team will present to UI Housing and Dining to forge a formal relationship with officials after they feel they have enough backing from related nonprofits as well as volunteer support.

“What we want to do is completely have everything laid out so they know we’re not joking around,” Sheeley said. He is confident officials will accept the proposal.

Initially, the chapter will focus on canned foods before transitioning more into prepared foods, including dining-hall kitchen leftovers. He said transporting prepared foods is more logistically difficult when accounting for storage and time sensitivity.

“We’re focusing more on canned foods because it’s a little bit easier,” Sheeley said. “I want our group to get more comfortable in the operations of food recovery.”

Although he said chapter members are willing to work with any entity with leftover food, such as gas stations or grocery stores, he would like to focus on building a relationship with university institutions. He said the group would have “more leeway” as a student organization.

“We’re looking to get into the dorms and get student donations,” he said.

The organization would also hold food drives to obtain items from students.

In addition to Table to Table, the group has partnered with Iowa City Shelter House, which has a food bank. The members are reaching out to other organizations.

Dylan Bondy, the president of Food Recovery Network at Grinnell College, said given all of the support in Iowa City, the chapter will have a high chance of success.

“In Iowa City, you have the infrastructure,” Bondy said. “You have a lot of food banks and social-justice organizations. We had to do it from scratch. We didn’t have that infrastructure.”


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