The Food Recovery Network at UC San Diego (FRN@UCSD) recovered 16,387 pounds of food during the 2018–19 academic year in its efforts to reduce edible food waste on campus and redistribute it to students facing food insecurity.
Founded in 2016, FRN@UCSD is a chapter of the larger Food Recovery Network, a national non-profit organization and student movement dedicated to reducing food waste on college campuses by recovering it for students and community members in need.
FRN@UCSD started out redistributing recovered food to Urban Street Angels, a transitional shelter for homeless youth in San Diego. Since its inception, FRN@UCSD has expanded its operations to serve the campus community by using funding provided by the Basic Needs committee. Some of these expansions include the creation of paid positions for student workers and a Food Recovery van. Previously, FRN@UCSD members would mostly cart recovered food on foot throughout campus.
According to FRN@UCSD’s president Christy Schlutius, funding for the Food Recovery van came from the 2019–20 California state budget, which allocated $15 million dollars to address student hunger and housing needs within the UC system.
FRN@UCSD operates Recovered Food Buffets, which offers food aid at no-cost and with no eligibility requirements. The food offered is recovered from various sources on- and off-campus including the Housing Dining Hospitality (HDH) dining halls, Leucadia, the Campus Farmer’s Markets, Y Más Bakery, UCSD Thornton Hospital, and Vons.
According to UCSD Basic Needs Coordinator Alicia Magallanes, Recovered Food Buffets is one program the Basic Needs Hub collaborates on that supports student communities that are at increased risk of experiencing food insecurity. These groups include students with families and students who cannot qualify for CalFresh, such as undocumented and international students.
“[The Recovered Food Buffets are] really [for] anyone that’s facing food security challenges,” Magallanes said. “It’s [about] making sure that very specific populations that even have a more marginalized access to resources know where to get food support regularly.”
FRN@UCSD also seeks to promote sustainability through their food recovery work. The number of pounds that FRN@UCSD recovers in food is calculated into the amount of greenhouse gas emissions that are reduced each year and then included in the University of California’s annual Sustainability Report. Last May, FRN@UCSD was recognized as the Student Organization of the Year at the 2019 Sustainability Awards.
“[Food recovery] is inherently sustainable in that you are taking food that would have otherwise gone to waste,” said Schlutius, FRN@UCSD’s president since 2017. “If you just feed it to people, that’s where it needed to go in the first place, and that’s the most sustainable route your food can take.”
Outside of providing food aid and promoting sustainability, FRN@UCSD is planning on expanding operations to include education and advocacy around food security issues. According to Schlutius, their current goal is increasing awareness about the organization’s programs.
“I would really like to start pivoting to more campus awareness and even policy advocacy, because I think we are in a really good position to lead some of that work on campus,” said Schlutius.
Julianna Domingo is Staff Writer at The Triton. You can follow her @juliannawtvr.