Shippensburg University women start program to help those in need
SHIPPENSBURG — Shippensburg University student Christina Qawasmy was working on a class project when she decided to start a Food Recovery Network chapter on her local campus.
But the experience proved to be an eye-opener, and she is now looking for ways to expand the program, which provides food for neighbors in need.
“It started out as an assignment for class,” said Qawasmy, who runs the Food Recovery Network chapter along with Sarah Maize, Morgan Livingston and Amanda Wheeler. “We’re all social work students, and we take a class called Practice with Organizations and Communities. As part of that class, we were assigned to test and pilot this program.
“But it’s really grown into something we didn’t expect,” she added. “It’s something we’ve all become passionate about. It’s not only helping the community around us, but the university as well. I’m happy we did this, and I’m fortunate to be part of this. It shows that even if you’re a student, you can do something to make a difference.”
The Food Recovery Network is an organization that, according to its website, “unites students at colleges and universities to fight food waste and hunger by recovering surplus perishable food from their campuses and surrounding communities that would otherwise go to waste and donating it to people in need.”
At Shippensburg, students partner with Chartwells dining services. They started delivering food last month to Kitchen of Grace, the community meal program at the Shippensburg First Church of God, and so far have donated more than 200 pounds of rice, pasta, rolls, meats, vegetables, soup, bread and baked goods.
The food comes from Reisner Dining Hall. Each Friday, students take surplus food to the Shippensburg First Church of God for its free community meal, which is served later that night.
“It is a truly wonderful feeling to see the appreciation on the faces of the Shippensburg community members my group and I are helping each and every recovery,” Qawasmy said. “In addition, the organization benefits both the community and the university by helping to eliminate some of the waste on-campus and to support sustainability efforts.”
Nick Iula, director of campus dining services, agrees.
“This food would normally go in the dump, so it’s a win-win,” he said. “Dining services wins because chefs don’t like to see our food dumped out. Students win because they are doing something good for society, and the folks who eat the food are winning because they’re getting food they might not get otherwise.”
Iula said there is plenty of room for the program to expand.
“We probably have from 25 to 100 pounds of overproduction each meal period, and we have 21 meal periods in a week,” he said. “And that’s just at one location (Reisner), and we have three locations. Right now, the students are collecting at one meal (Friday lunch) at Reisner Dining Hall.
“I’m a huge supporter,” he added. “I love this program.”
Iula said the Food Recovery Network was started in 2011 at the University of Maryland. As of February, there were programs at 53 colleges in 20 states.
He said he heard about the organization during an environmental conference last year and knew immediately it was something he wanted to see at Shippensburg.
“The Ship Farm Club was there (at the conference) as well, and students from the club suggested introducing the program at the university,” he said. “But at that time, they lacked volunteers to get the program started. Since then, four girls formed a chapter to get it started. They’re really the superstars.
“Without the students, it can’t work ... You’ve got to have motivated students to take time out of their schedule to do this,” he said.
Qawasmy said she was surprised to learn how many people attend free community meals. In fact, the chapter is now looking for other local churches and organizations that would accept surplus food as part of their programs.
“Having access to nutritious food is an issue (in Shippensburg),” she said. “I’m happy we’re able to help bring in food that is nutritious to eat.”
Email Debbie Chestnut at email@example.com