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Devin Smith, Weber State University freshman and dental hygiene major, was doing research for a communications speech when she came across the Food Recovery Network. The program, commonly known as FRN, works to fight hunger in local communities by recovering perishable “leftovers” from university campuses and redistributing them to the needy in their area.
Smith, who doesn’t have any official service or leadership role on campus, saw a need in the Ogden community, and thought she could help to fill it. Working with WSU food provider Sodexo, Smith established a daily food donation system that allowed St. Anne’s Center access to the food that isn’t purchased from Sodexo each day.
“I was doing research . . . and what I found is that the hunger in Utah is actually a lot more prevalent than people give it credit for,” Smith said. Inspired by this information, she reached out to the Center for Community Engaged Learning, where she began working with Trevor Annis, service vice president of the WSU Student Association. With the help of Annis and Sodexo general manager Keith Murray, Smith was able to begin making the WSU chapter official.
Annis said he is excited about the program being established at WSU. “She (Smith) brought it to me, and I feel like she’s done the legwork and the volunteer recruitment,” he said. “All I’ve done really is help with the red tape of things . . . As far as the idea generation and the putting people together and making it happen, that’s totally her.”
Choosing St. Anne’s because of its willingness to accept previously prepared food and its close proximity to campus, Smith was able to reach out to the more than 250 people who look to St. Anne’s for lunch every day, as well as the families who stay in the facilities for extended periods of time.
“I felt like they had a need for the food, and they do help a lot of people in our community,” Smith said. “If there was the available resources, I’d love to (expand to other charities). But for what our dining halls are able to produce, it wouldn’t be able to go to (places other than St. Anne’s). Not quite yet.”
Oct. 30 was WSU’s official trial run, a requirement the FRN set to make sure the program will be executed effectively. With 106 pounds of food collected on the first day alone, the WSU chapter’s biggest concern is being able to find enough volunteers to collect and transport the food itself.
Rashad Aljayoushi, currently a Lambda pledge, said the majority of the fraternity’s pledges are involved with the project. “Right now the fraternity has a minimum of 10 hours a month dedicated to service . . . We hope that, by getting involved with the community, we will help it become better. We love helping people, and this is an excellent way of doing so.”
Johnathan Francis, WSU Rugby Club president, agreed. “We heard about this food drive, and we thought it would be really cool if the whole team could go wear our rugby shirts and help.” The rugby team has a requirement that all members perform at least five hours of community service each semester. “We have encouraged that everyone be involved in this to fulfill those hours that they need, but also, we are hoping that serving others will help the rugby players see how important service is and how many people can be affected (by) just a few hours.”
The process involves Sodexo chefs placing the leftover food in certain places in the fridges. Volunteers then collect and weigh the food for FRN records. Once the food is transported to St. Anne’s, it’s weighed again and immediately refrigerated.
Smith said that one of the best parts of the trial run was being able to see the impact it made not only on those receiving the food, but on the volunteers.
“A lot of the guys that signed up for it . . . once they were actually there and dropping off the food, and they saw the little kids that were getting the food and seeing the people that were so appreciative of it, I think it really struck home with them as well. It was cool to see something that I’ve been so passionate about for the past few weeks, to see it hit home with them as well.”
Annis said that in his talks with student senate president Brady Harris, the senate has previously attempted to make similar programs work, but ended up falling through because of insurance reasons. By establishing a FRN chapter, all Sodexo service is covered through the organization’s insurance.
“I’m excited because it is just the beginning of it, and we were already able to give St. Anne’s 106 pounds of food, which blows my mind,” Smith said. “I plan on being here for at least another four years, so to see what can be done in a total of four years will be really exciting.”