By Daniel Rury, Staff Reporter, and Julia Battishill, News Editor
Matthew Benzar, current vice president of the Seattle Pacific University Food Recovery Network (FRN), knew from the first moment he got involved with the club that they were doing important work.
“[I]went to a few recoveries and knew that this was such a direct way to serve others with just a little bit of commitment,” Benzar remembered.
The club functions as a chapter of The Food Recovery Network, a national organization dedicated to reducing food waste.
At SPU, FRN recovers food a few times per week from Gwinn Commons dining hall and other on-campus food facilities.
The community of volunteers that work for SPU’s FRN chapter are passionate about their work, and love what they do, according to Benzar. He knew as soon as he first got involved that this was important work.
Now, as vice president, Benzar saw a commitment to the cause and dedication to one another in the FRN team.
“It is has been a really fun and intimate community! We meet up for our recoveries, weigh the excess food that Gwinn doesn’t use and actually communicate with our partners like Operation Sack Lunch and Tent City 5!”
Benzar explained that those who work for FRN have fostered close relationships, as they worked towards food recovery and helping our campus be more sustainable.
“It’s a sweet & close community that is actually doing very meaningful work with even just a few hours of commitment per week!”
FRN is also at work on other campuses in Washington, such as Washington State University, Western Washington University and Whitman College. All together, these campuses recover thousands of pounds of food every year to relocate to their communities.
On our campus and others, FRN also hosts meal-prep events and educates students, giving higher awareness towards issues of consumption and food waste in our communities.
Each school is also partnered with other local charities and organizations to help relocate the food in the most effective way possible for their specific community.
At SPU, prepared meals are donated to local partnered organizations like Operation Sack Lunch and Tiny Cabins Safe Harbor.
As FRN president for the last year, student Fern Salguero has been facilitating this process by coordinating donation pick-ups with these agencies, leading a recovery each week and heading her club’s meetings.
SPU student volunteers help Salguero, and our campus’ chapter of FRN as a whole, accomplish the goal to relocate food.
SPU’s FRN chapter has been established since January 2016, and successful for as many years. They recovered over 5,000 lbs. of food last year, according to their orgsync site.
However, from spring 2018 to winter 2019, Gwinn Commons was only recovering minimal amounts of food with FRN, due to issues surrounding staffing.
“They were going through a staffing transition,” said Salguero.
Food reuse and recovery necessitated a position responsible for coordinating efforts with FRN, and during the change of staff, this role was not filled.
This academic quarter, Gwinn Commons filled the critical coordinating role, and food recovery resumed its normal recovery efforts.
“I love that even this quarter (as of today!) we have been able to recover 543 lbs. of excess food and impart it to so many people experiencing homelessness or need for a consistent food source,” said Benzar.
However, FRN’s dry spell did affect its retention of student volunteers, said Salguero. She emphasized that FRN could use more volunteers.
Looking towards the future, Benzar is excited for FRN and the student involvement he hopes to see.
“I think SPU is a perfect place for this club to grow in compassion, service, and numbers and I’m very excited to try to continue leading the Food Recovery Network through next year!”
Information to volunteer and FRN event news can be found at the SPU Food Recovery Network Facebook page.