Fresno State Students Help Recover Food to Serve Those in Need

Published 08/15 2014 11:29PM

Updated 08/15 2014 11:56PM

In the Central Valley, many people don't know where their next meal will come from. 

A group of Fresno State students saw the need in the community and decided to do something about it.

They formed a chapter of the national Food Recovery Network, where they collect unused produce from farmers markets and untouched food from the University Dining Services.

They then serve the food to those in need.

Friday, the group recovered more than 1,200 pounds of food that otherwise would've ended up going to waste. They prepared and served a warm meal for more than 80 people.

At 2:30 p.m. Friday, the group quickly collects the day's unused and untouched food from Fresno State's dining services.

They spend every Friday loading up trays, loading up their cars, and recovering hundreds of pounds of food that otherwise would end up thrown away.

"We recover any food that they can't keep over the weekend, but it's still perfectly good to eat and serve," says Rose Cardoso, president of the Fresno State Food Recovery Network chapter.

The students bring the food to the Newman Center just down the street from Fresno State where Cardoso will plan the meal.

"The need was there, and there was a lot of food going to waste," Cardoso says. "So we put those two things together and got a group of students interested in decreasing food waste and feeding those who need it."

The need is great in the Central Valley.

The Food Research and Action Center recently ranked the Fresno area as number five in the nation for food insecurity. That's when people are struggling to afford food or not knowing where their next meal will come from.

"It's really hard to imagine that there are people here in the Valley where there is such an abundance of food, going hungry, while a lot of food is being thrown away," says Jeannette Warnert, the Newman Center coordinator for the Food Recovery Network.

The group of eight Fresno State students, with the support of faculty and the Newman Center, is working hard to change that.

"We can recover any food that has not been put out for the public to touch yet," says Myrkka Lyons, one of the founding members of Fresno State's Food Recovery Network.

Pound after pound of fresh produce also comes in from the Manchester Mall's farmers market. About a dozen vendors donated their produce.

"I've dealt with food insecurity, so it's heartbreaking to see food go to waste," Cardoso says. "Knowing that there's something that we can do about it is really rewarding for all of us, all of us students."

Friday, the recovered food is feeding local families, including children from the El Dorado Park Boys and Girls Club.

"I know that some of the kids here, they go home and they have nothing to eat, especially the kids that come to the club. They get excited about a warm meal," says Kathy Vue, unit director for the El Dorado Park Boys and Girls Club.

The volunteers also work hard to make sure those who come in don't leave hungry. The volunteers encourage the community members to take a to-go-bag of healthy food.

All of the volunteers who handle and serve food are trained in food safety. At least one person who has a manager's training in food safety oversees the process, Cardoso says.

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