By KRISTEN TOLLAS
In 2014, students and faculty started a food recovery program on Drake’s campus called Next Course after noticing excess amounts of unused food at both Hubbell Dining Hall and Quad Creek Café. Partnering with Sodexo, Next Course sends volunteers Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays to take untouched food to five partner agencies who supply the food to those in need.
“It makes sense to me,” Catie Mullen, the service learning ambassador for Next Course, said. “It just makes sense to take food that would be thrown away and give it to people who need it.”
Next Course meets at 6 p.m. every other Tuesday in the Pomerantz Conference Room or in the lower Olmsted conference rooms. The organization has approximately 14 members.
Without the help of volunteers, including non-members, Next Course would not be able to deliver food to their partner agencies. Approximately 25 to 120 pounds of excess food are delivered during each recovery, which prevents food waste from ending up in landfills.
“I like the environmental aspect too,” Mullen said. “Because putting food in a landfill is not good. It’s one of those things that creates methane, which is a really terrible greenhouse gas.”
In addition to reducing food waste at Hubbell, Next Course is partnering with Drake Environmental Action League and Sodexo to implement a composting program at Quad.
“So much is compostable, such as the silverware, straws, the boats and the paper boxes,” Gabriella LeFevre, the co-president of DEAL, said. “Trying to get the students to see what is happening – that shift is really, really challenging.”
DEAL focuses on small changes like recycling something instead of throwing it away, LeFevre said. The organization meets at 9 p.m. on Tuesdays in Medbury Hall 115. Originally created in the 1990s, the club has approximately 20 active members.
“Some really cool things have come out of DEAL in the past,” LeFevre said. “DEAL members are the ones who spearheaded applying for the grant that got the Sprout Garden on campus, which was really cool.”
In 2013, members of DEAL noticed the need for fresh food alternatives in the Des Moines community and began Sprout – the Des Moines Urban Youth Learning Garden.
“[They] just saw a need in the community for access to fresh and healthy produce because Drake is not technically a food desert but the neighborhood surrounding it has very few options for food,” Laura Harris, the service learning ambassador for the Sprout Garden, said. “A lot of people rely on gas stations for their primary grocery store. There are so many limited options.”
Located east of the Knapp Center on 25th and Forest, the Sprout Garden provides free access to produce to the Des Moines community. Drake student volunteers to water, weed and harvest the garden daily. The Free Little Pantry, right outside the sprout garden, allows members of the community to freely take what they need.
Almost 1.6 billion tons of food produced for human consumption is wasted each year, according to the Boston Consulting Group website.
According to Move for Hunger, wasted food that ends up in landfills releases excess amounts of methane, a greenhouse gas that absorbs almost 100 times more heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide.
Many urban and impoverished areas, including parts of Des Moines, are classified as food deserts, or areas with limited access to fresh and healthy food, according to the American Nutrition Association.
In the past, Next Course, DEAL and the Sprout Garden have collaborated on multiple environmental projects.
“So many social movements have started on college campuses,” LeFevre said. “I think this is a really valuable space where we can draw attention to ourselves and make people aware of things that aren’t right in the world.”
GRAPHICS BY HANNAH COHEN