Radford University students are leading a mission to stop hunger and reduce food waste
One morning last fall, a small group of students involved in Radford University’s Food Recovery Network chapter delivered almost 200 pounds of food to a nearby food bank.
“It was one of the biggest deliveries we have done,” senior Karla Colina said. “It was a very proud moment for us, and I was super happy to be a part of that day.”
Every Wednesday and Friday, during the early morning hours, Colina and a couple of members of the university’s Sustainability Leadership Team meet in the basement of Dalton Hall to load, into cooler boxes, pre-packaged food that is nearing its expiration date. From there, the crew packs the boxes into a car and transports the contents to the Radford-Fairlawn Daily Bread food bank.
Workers at the food bank were thrilled the morning students delivered 198 pounds of food, which included sandwiches, salads, wraps, fruit cups, hummus and other healthy options.
“They were saying, ‘Thank you, thank you, thank you,’” Colina recalled. “They were so excited, but they are always excited to see us and are so grateful, no matter how much food we deliver.”
Food Recovery Network chapters, such as the one at Radford, are part of a larger student movement to fight food waste and hunger in the United States. Radford University is one of three higher education institutions in Virginia to be part of the network, according to the Food Recovery Network website.
Through its food donations, Radford University’s Dining Services is playing a critical role in the students’ recovery missions.
There are challenges, however, in the delicate equation of reducing food waste and providing “a diverse selection of food options in adequate amounts to faculty, staff and students,” Radford University Sustainability Manager Josh Nease said. “It is a balancing act for them, as they don’t know how many customers they will have daily. None of this would be possible without their participation.”
Colina, a recreational therapy major from Winchester, Virginia, is the assistant coordinator of the Sustainability Leadership Team, which has been organizing food recovery operations with Dining Services since the program began a couple of years ago.
Colina has been leading these missions for about three months. She organizes the team’s efforts and details, from making certain members wash their hands before collecting the food to weighing the delivered contents and reporting the information back to the Food Recovery Network national office.
The recovery team’s efforts are playing an important role in the university’s commitment to being a model for campus sustainability practices. It’s a practice they hope will continue and grow long after they have graduated from Radford.
Along with another senior, Tucker Morgan, Colina is working to make the Food Recovery Network chapter into a Radford University club through the Sustainability Office. “We’re both graduating seniors, and we don’t want this to end,” Colina said. “It would be great if students keep it going.”
As more students are learning about the recovery mission and becoming interested in the university’s sustainability practices, more individuals and campus groups are getting involved.
A couple of these groups are the Green Team and SGA, where Colina is the sustainability secretary.
“It’s so nice to see more people wanting to be involved in the recoveries,” Colina said, “because this is such a wonderful program and it is having a very positive impact on the community.”
It is not every day that the group collects and delivers nearly 200 pounds of food, but every amount is always helpful and appreciated.
“It’s heartwarming, even today, when we showed up at the food bank with not a lot of food. I say to them, ‘I’m sorry,’ but they give me hugs and say, ‘This is great,’” Colina said. “The food bank has people coming to eat there every day, and it’s great that a lot of people are getting fed through this program.”