STORY BY KELLY MARBLE
Eight hundred pounds of food. The leftovers from the endless buffet in Hubbell Dining Hall.
The uneaten entrees and appetizers at catered Drake University events. The pre-prepared food at sporting events and Relays.
Through Nextcourse Food Recovery Network, this holiday season students and faculty are working to combat the problem of food insecurity by recovering and donating food that would be wasted to shelters in the Drake area.
Food insecurity is the idea of not knowing where your next meal will come from, and it is estimated to affect around 50 million Americans.
“Food recovery is really pretty immediate,” said Ellen Yee, Nextcourse founder. “It’s food that’s prepared right now that needs to be delivered quickly, and it needs to be used relatively quickly.”
NextCourse Service Learning Ambassador Laura Leben thinks this opportunity could be beneficial to students.
“I think it’s important for every campus to have food recovery because not only does it reduce food waste … It also allows students to get involved with the local community,” Leben said.
First-year Gabrielle Miller grew up with food insecurity and agrees with Leben.
“We’re already a Drake community, but you can still help that community and build an outreach to the greater Des Moines community as well,” Miller said.
Yee first had the idea for Nextcourse after a lawyer luncheon.
“It just occurred to me that everything that was left over at the end of the dinner was probably going to be tossed,” Yee said. “I realized that I work at a large institution, and … I thought about what is my responsibility at this institution.”
The name for Nextcourse was developed out of the meaning of course, and what Yee sees as the variety of ways food recovery impacts Drake.
A course is “a part of a meal, an opportunity to learn and a path forward.”
”I’m hoping that this project is one step that leads us forward in making changes in our society to address the problems of food insecurity,” Yee said.
This fall, Drake became an official chapter of the national Food Recovery Network, which is made up of 96 chapters from across the country. All the college students involved in FRNs across the country have recovered and donated 523,809 pounds of food since 2011.
“It’s a really impactful organization because it’s not only important to reduce food waste here at Drake because then that food can be used for people that are hungry elsewhere, but it’s also tying in the community,” said Sara Hillring, a first-year neuroscience major.
In the future, Leben and the students hope to expand the program beyond Drake’s campus to taking donations from the local coffee shops, restaurants and Greek chapters.
“We’re consistently looking for ways in which students can become involved in the larger picture of food insecurity and waste,” Yee said.