STORY BY JESSICA LYNK
What started as a position in the office of Community Engagement and Service Learning has now sprouted into a campus organization.
Junior environmental science major Laura Leben is one of eight Service-Learning ambassadors at Drake who was given the task to create a service-learning initiative that connects the Drake community to the Des Moines community. She completed this through Next Course Food Recovery Network.
“I decided it would best fit the goals of making it sustainable by creating it as a student organization and giving it that integrity and have students responsible for doing the work,” Leben said.
From this initiative came the student organization Next Course. Next Course is designed to take food leftover from catering, dining halls and concession and distribute the leftover food to local shelters.
Every Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, volunteers meet to transport food from Drake to the shelters.
First-year Sara Hillring got involved with Next Course after taking a First-Year seminar on food recovery. Hillring has been interested in the food system since high school and felt this was a way to get involved.
“The food system is interesting and I don’t really like how it is functioning now. I have always thought it would be a great thing to get involved in and potentially help change,” Hillring said.
Hillring finds this program beneficial because it helps provide for those in need.
“It is not just about filling people up that are hungry, but giving them the nutrients they need so that they can do more things and function properly. It all really goes hand in hand,” Hillring said.
One of the initiatives Next Course recently started is composting. They will be implementing a system for first- years next year in order to add composting in Quad Creek Café.
“We are specifically targeting first years and training them as part of summer orientation and then it will be a natural process,” Leben said.
Next Course has partnered with clubs like DEAL and different fraternities and sororities on campus.
“It has been really helpful to have a support system across the university,” Leben said.
The program has helped the students involved see the impact they have on Des Moines.
“Actually seeing that food has a profound impact on you to think ‘This would be in the garbage if it wasn’t for this program,’” Leben said.
Next Course is partnering with Sodexo and the Boys and Girls Club on April 16 from 4:30 to 6:00 p.m. in the Knapp Center. The program titled “Growing up: Food for Thought” will teach young children about eating healthy. Anyone looking to volunteer can contact firstname.lastname@example.org.