Student-led Food Recovery Network chapter feeds the needy


food-driveThis spring at UIndy, several hundred pounds of leftover dining room food went to hungry men, women, and children throughout Indianapolis, thanks to the leadership of one student—a freshman, no less. Brittany Finigan, a Psychology/Pre-OT major, has founded a UIndy chapter of the national Food Recovery Network, one of only three such chapters in the state. Each Thursday night beginning March 26, she and a few friends gathered in the Schwitzer Student Center kitchens to package, weigh, and label big trays of food that otherwise would have gone in the garbage. Tracking the figures on their spreadsheets, they prepared the bounty for pickup or delivery to Wheeler Mission, the Salvation Army Women and Children’s Center, and other organizations that help the needy or homeless. The demand is great, says
Finigan, who hails from Lowell, Indiana. “We have 13 shelters in Indianapolis alone,” she says.

Leadership certification

Community service is not new to Finigan, who enjoys working with disabled adults and plans to make it a career after earning a doctorate in occupational therapy. She came to UIndy on a service-related scholarship and was further inspired by undertaking the Student Affairs division’s new Leadership Certificate Program, which aims to build skills and confidence and increase campus engagement among rising student leaders. The idea of food recovery occurred to her during a casual dining room chat, when “I was just wondering what they did with all the food,” she recalls.

After a bit of research, she discovered Food Recovery Network, which supports college students nationwide in battling food waste and hunger in their communities. She obtained a grant from the group to cover the cost of aluminum food trays, gas, and other expenses, and worked with UIndy Dining Services on the logistics. In the group’s first four Thursdays of operation, they salvaged more than 500 pounds of food. Finigan is now focused on fundraising, building her student team, and organizing speakers and events on campus to raise awareness. Among the more modest goals is expanding the food collection to two nights a week, and the organization is growing accordingly. “I love community service,” says Finigan. “It’s become a passion of mine. It’s a great feeling, after you’re done, to know that you’ve helped someone.”