At the beginning of the third annual Food for Thought dinner, LSA senior Rachel Ross posed a question to the group.
“Where does the food go?” she asked.
Ross was referring to food scraps from the University’s dining hall; their final destination a central topic of Thursday evening’s event. Hosted by the University’s chapter of the Food Recovery Network, the gathering drew a crowd of 20 students.
FRN communications director Taylor Flowers, an LSA senior, said the purpose of the dinner was to not only participate in food recovery but also to share its importance with University students.
“We go to local businesses in Ann Arbor and we get their recovered food, which is food that hasn’t been served but would typically go to waste, and we have dinner with our members and volunteers and people at the University who are interested in sustainability and food waste,” she said.
At the dinner, participants helped themselves to bagels, salads and other excess food donated by businesses in Ann Arbor.
LSA junior Rob Luzynski tried eating recovered food for the first time and said he found the experience meaningful.
“It’s both a social justice issue and also an environmental issue. That’s my favorite thing to do — give the food to people who will use it or specifically people who need it,” he said. “It’s really important that we reduce our energy needs and there are people that are hungry or people that could use some extra food and it’s being wasted.”
Food recovered from campus dining is given to Food Gatherers food bank, and is then distributed to those in need in Washtenaw County. The organization is currently recovering food from East Quad Residence Hall, the Hill Dining Center, and Mary Markley Residence Hall. The chapter hopes to be eventually be actively recovering food from all dining halls.
FRN outreach coordinator Madi Togrul, an LSA junior, noted the importance of community waste and raising awareness about food recovery.
“One in seven people in Washtenaw County are food insecure, which means they don’t know where their next meal is coming from,” she said. “We want students to know that.”
The process of recovering food is fairly simple but is one that has a substantial impact, said Engineering senior Joey Letner.
“The dining staff takes the leftover food, puts in aluminum pans that we provide, puts it in freezers, and then our chapter picks up the food and brings it to the Ann Arbor Food Gatherers. From there, it’s distributed to various places, such as the Delonis Center and other homeless centers or churches that have food pantries.”
LSA senior Colleen Rathz, the event coordinator, stressed the importance of being conscious of what to do with your food.
“Repurpose your leftovers, put it in the fridge, or give it to a friend,” she said. “There are so many better options than throwing food in the garbage.”