Hartford, Connecticut, February 17, 2017 – For the past two years, Doug Curtin ’17 and other members of the swimming and diving team have led the Trinity College chapter of the Food Recovery Network, which delivers extra food from the Mather Dining Hall to a shelter in Hartford each week.
Founded at the University of Maryland in 2011, the Food Recovery Network (FRN) is a nationwide student movement to prevent food waste and feed those in need. As the movement caught on, more universities and colleges, including Trinity College, began adopting the mission to save excess dining hall food and donate meals to those in their surrounding community.
Curtin’s passion to initiate the Food Recovery movement at Trinity began when he started bringing food to a homeless man named Jake. Curtin was inspired by his friendship with Jake and wondered how to use his resources to feed larger numbers of people in the Hartford area. Curtin then set up a partnership with the McKinney Shelter, which is located near Hartford Hospital and serves up to 100 men daily and provides them a place to sleep.
When Curtin presented the FRN idea to Toby Chenette, district manager of Chartwells at Trinity, the idea caught on and the partnership was quickly established. Curtin and the FRN team worked with Chartwells to put the idea into action. Curtin explained, “The staff at Mather Dining Hall has been extremely helpful in getting this all going and are very committed to saving the leftover food.” Throughout the week, extra food is saved according to proper health standards.
On Friday nights, Trinity’s FRN chapter weighs the food and delivers it to the McKinney Shelter. In collaboration with Chartwells, the FRN at Trinity donates 100 to 200 pounds of food every week. The weekly food donation often feeds those at the shelter one meal on Saturday or Sunday. Since it began, the Network has donated 3,000 pounds of food to the McKinney Shelter, Curtin said.
In December 2016, Gus Daly ’19, an active member of the FRN at Trinity, attended a Frog Hollow Neighborhood Revitalization Zone (NRZ) meeting. The NRZ is a group of neighborhood residents and stakeholders – including Trinity – that convenes each month to share and discuss happenings and to address ongoing challenges in Frog Hollow, which borders Trinity’s campus. At the meeting, Daly discussed the FRN’s purpose, accomplishments, and goals for expansion at Trinity. Daly was presented with a certificate from the NRZ in recognition of the FRN’s contribution to the Hartford community. In addition, members of the NRZ with experience in food justice issues offered words of advice on next steps for the FRN and how it might complement existing food initiatives in the city.
While Trinity students involved in the FRN and the Mather Dining Hall staff have already made a difference, they want to do more. The students held a fundraiser last fall to raise money so they can start providing breakfasts to the McKinney Shelter this semester, as there is currently no room in the shelter’s budget to serve breakfast.
Curtin has also worked to spread the word about food recovery beyond Trinity. He has met with representatives from St. Francis Hospital, ESPN, and other groups about the importance of sharing excess food within the community.
Trinity’s FRN chapter has become part of the relationship between the Trinity community and the city of Hartford by providing an essential service. “McKinney Shelter has an array of people who are homeless, old, young, white, black, Asian, and Latino,” Curtin said. “There is no single face of homelessness and that is an important thing to understand. Anyone can fall into hard times with either financial struggles, drug problems, or mental health issues, and we are just happy we can provide support through food and hopefully more things in the future.”
For more information on participating in Trinity College’s Food Recovery Network, visit the GoFundMe page, or contact Curtin at email@example.com or Daly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Written by Lorig Purutyan ’17