Food insecurity is an issue on college campuses across the country. Millersville University (MU) is no exception. The Campus Cupboard, a food pantry for college students who are experiencing hunger, does its best to address some of those issues, but recent graduate, Ayla Torchia ’17 wanted to do more. After some planning, she founded the Food Recovery Network at MU as a chapter of the national organization Swipe Out Hunger. The organization is a student club that aims to eliminate food waste on campus.
“I got this idea when I attended the annual Food Recovery Network Dialogue back in Spring 2016,” said Torchia. “The original founder of the national Swipe Out Hunger organization spoke to the attendees of that conference, and it inspired me to start a chapter of that here at MU.”
To become an official MU club, you need a faculty advisor. Torchia approached the social work department to see if a faculty member would be interested in becoming the advisor for the club in the spring of 2016. Dr. Jennifer Frank accepted the role. It took about a year to finalize the creation of the Food Recovery Network due to negotiations.
Once created, one of the tasks the club wanted to accomplish was figuring out a way to have students donate unused meals. During the summer of 2017, Torchia reached out to the director of dining about a feasible course of action that would benefit both organizations.
Dining agreed that each meal donated would have a $3 monetary value. Basically, every three swipes that were donated equaled one meal voucher that could be given to a student. In the fall of 2017 the Food Recovery Network held its first “Swipes Drive” and it was a success, with 174 meals donated, which equated to 58 vouchers for students in need. Those vouchers then went to the financial aid office where they could be distributed on a need-basis beginning this semester.
“Olivia Dudek (current president of the Food Recovery Network at MU) organized all the current members to collect swipes from students,” explained Torchia. “Had it not been for all those helping hands, there is no way we could have pulled it off. I am so happy with the results from 2017, and I look forward to increasing that, this Spring 2018.”
In addition to the drive, every Friday, the club goes to the Cove and recovers food that would otherwise be discarded and delivers those items to the Campus Cupboard. Kunal Hivale played a huge role in getting the agreement between the Cupboard and the Cove started. The club is also looking to expand to other areas of campus and in the community like grocery and convenience stores who may be throwing food out.
“The cool thing about this is that it’s really student-driven, and that students care about helping out fellow students,” says Frank.
Stay tuned for more information about the dates, times and locations for this year’s drive. For more information on the Food Recovery network at MU, visit Food Recovery Network.