Willamette students help the needy through harvest gleaning

by Jennifer Johnson,

  • Gleaning apples

Food Recovery Network travels to Molalla, Oregon, to collect hundreds of pounds of apples.

Marion and Polk county families will soon be enjoying 747 pounds of apples thanks to the work of Willamette students — but students say they could have given even more.

Members of the Food Recovery Network (FRN) recently drove to a spiritual sanctuary an hour northeast of Salem to harvest the fruit from an orchard. Organized by Salem Harvest and Willamette food provider Bon Appetit Management Company Foundation, the trip offered students a first-time experience with gleaning — collecting excess fresh foods from farms, restaurants and other food-based institutions and businesses to give to hunger relief organizations. It’s one of the ways Bon Appetit hopes to help reduce the six billion pounds of food that gets spoiled every year on American farms.

Students say they enjoyed playing their part in feeding hungry people and making a positive impact on the community. The apples were donated to Marion Polk Foodshare.

“I realized how much bounty there is that we don’t tap into, despite the massive amount we were harvesting,” says Ethan Frank ’20. “All of the apples on the ground were perfectly good but you couldn’t take them, or the ones you couldn't quite reach. It just speaks to the food dilemma of waste and usage in general.”

The FRN has led other food conservation events. Since the chapter was established two years ago by Maya Kaup ’17, it has hosted three “clean plate” campaigns, which asked students to scrape their leftovers into bins to show exactly how much food is wasted after meals. Last fall, FRN estimated one night’s worth of waste could have provided 175 meals for needy people.  

And every night, one of FRN’s 25 volunteers recovers about 50 pounds of leftover food from Goudy Commons and donates it to Union Gospel Mission.

Evan Dilley ’19 recovers food once a week. He says he’s happy to help “bring the community together and help people in an impactful way.”