Campus News

Student group on campus to shift focus to student hunger

The Food Recovery Network, a student organization on campus that redistributes food throughout the UW-Madison community, partnered with ASM's Open Seat pantry earlier this month.

Image By: Jon Yoon

What started as a once-a-week effort to bring leftover food from Gordon Avenue Market to Madison community members has grown into a larger effort to supply food to not only the community, but also UW-Madison students who need it.

Joshua Baumgartner — co-founder of the Food Recovery Network — said that his organization had been supplying local communities like the Bayview Foundation, a local subsidized housing community, since the group was founded in 2015. But, he added, there was a need on campus that needed to be addressed as well.

“On college campuses, there is a lot more poverty and student homelessness than you’d expect,” Baumgartner said. “It is not very clear, and you can’t really see it, so it is important for us to address food-insecure students.”

To address the issue of homelessness and hunger on campus, the Food Recovery Network partnered with the Associated Students of Madison’s Open Seat, a food pantry in the Student Activity Center where students can take food items as needed, earlier this month.

According to Baumgartner, the new partnership will allow the group to “address students and staff directly affiliated with the university.”

Aside from recovering food from Gordon to bring to the Bayview Foundation on Mondays and Fridays, the organization now recovers food from Rheta’s Market in Chadbourne Hall on Sundays and Wednesdays to bring to the Open Seat pantry.

The group collects and redistributes about 90 pounds of food from Gordon and 40 pounds of food from Rheta’s every week, according to Baumgartner.

Alec Armon, the other co-founder of the Recovery Network, credited UW-Madison’s Dining and Culinary Services faculty and staff as a major factor for the success of the organization so far. He said dining hall workers package and refrigerate leftover food for the Food Recovery Network until the organization is prepared to distribute the goods.

“All of the chefs and administration have been really willing to get involved in lowering their own food waste,” Armon said. “They are conscious of this problem and want to find ways to help students and reduce food waste.”

Although both Baumgartner and Armon are seniors, the co-founders said they are confident the organization’s young staff will continue to expand the organization and positively influence more students in the future.

“Hopefully this will become an institution on the UW-Madison campus, and we’ll see it for years to come,” Baumgartner said.

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