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WKU Food Recovery Network redirects 5,000 pounds of surplus food to address hunger in community

Since the spring of 2019, students in Western Kentucky University’s Food Recovery Network have kept more than 5,000 pounds of surplus food from landfills and directed it to those who need it.

The effort began when WKU senior Elaine Losekamp of Bowling Green attended an Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education Conference and brought back a plan to establish WKU’s first food recovery program.

“I’d been aware that food waste was a serious issue before that, but I didn’t really know about what people could do to solve the problem,” she said.

Since the spring of 2019, students in WKU’s Food Recovery Network have kept more than 5,000 pounds of surplus food from landfills and directed it to those who need it. (WKU photo)

Losekamp mobilized two faculty advisors and almost 50 student volunteers who now collect food from 13 sources across campus and distribute it to 12 nonprofit homeless shelters, soup kitchens and food pantries in the community.

“For a lot of the especially smaller nonprofits, it’s a challenge for them to provide food on a consistent basis, so if we can help support that, it’s a help for them,” she said.

On Thursday evening, WKU President Timothy Caboni presented the group with a plaque in recognition of “their tremendous success of recovering 5,300 pounds of food since their efforts began last year.”

He said the group has conducted nearly 300 individual food recoveries and that several students have become ServSafe Certified to safely collect and distribute the food. Examples of food collected include bagels, pastries, yogurts and fruit cups from Einstein Bros. Bagels; bread loaves and cookies from Subway; premade sandwiches and fruit cups from P.O.D. Market @ Bates and Pitstop Convenience Store and soup, pastries and cookies from DaVinci’s and Java City.

Among agencies receiving the food are Christ Episcopal Church, MEALS Inc., Salvation Army of Bowling Green, Room In The Inn and Hope House Ministries.

Losekamp said she has learned much in class about how to make an impact, “but to go out and do it is really rewarding.”

Caboni said the group’s efforts are evidence of the Hilltopper Spirit in action.

“An important goal of our University is to elevate the communities in which we live, and I think we can all agree that your work is making a difference in our community and in the individual lives of so many,” he said.

From Western Kentucky University

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