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Students join an international movement for social justice through food recovery

Apr 10, 2019

It’s never too late to make a difference

Jake Jaskowiak ’19, a Chinese and environmental studies major, decided to make big waves his senior year by changing the way North Central sees food waste.

According to the nonprofit Feeding America’s website, 50 billion pounds of food are wasted every year from consumer facing businesses such as grocery stores, restaurants and cafeterias across America. At most colleges, unserved food either ends up in a compost bin, or worse, a landfill.

That’s no longer the case at North Central.

Jake Jaskowiak '19 and Benjamin Ubert '19 stand outside Kaufman Dining Hall

Jake Jaskowiak '19 (left) and Benjamin Ubert '19 prepare for another food recovery run from Kaufman Dining Hall.

Social justice inspired by an internship

While working in the Zero Waste School Department at the nonprofit Seven Generations Ahead in Oak Park, Ill., Jaskowiak heard about the Food Recovery Network. Launched in 2011, The Food Recovery network is an international program that empowers students to donate unserved food from college campuses to shelters, soup kitchens and more. With chapters at more than 200 colleges, the organization has helped facilitate the donation of more than 3 million pounds of food and counting.

“After hearing about the Food Recovery Network at my internship, I thought: ‘How hard could that be to bring to North Central?’ As it turns out, not hard at all,” said Jaskowiak.

As soon as he got to campus, Jaskowiak put his plan into motion and rallied a team of volunteers. With one or two food recovery pickups every week from Chartwells at North Central’s Kaufman Dining Hall and Einstein Bros. Bagels in downtown Naperville, Jaskowiak has found plenty of support to keep the program going.

An outpouring of support from a variety of different student organizations such as Green Scene, Students for Social Innovation and Outreach has helped put North Central’s Food Recovery Network chapter on pace to surpass a goal of 1,000 pounds of food donations in a year.

Benjamin Ubert ’19, a history major, was one of the first students to join Jaskowiak.

“My interest in both social work and business operations lined up perfectly with the goals of this program,” said Ubert. “My favorite experience has been seeing the real-life effects practicing sustainability brings. Sustainable practices are good business practices, and I’m seeing their social impact as well.”

Chartwells employee helps load food for donation.

Campus comes together for a sustainable, social cause

“Everyone I have worked with on campus has been super receptive, and the partnership with the Food Recovery Network is great,” said Jaskowiak. “They cover the cost of gas as we transport all of the recovered food to Hesed House, a homeless shelter in Aurora, Ill.”

Hesed House is the second largest homeless shelter in Illinois, and the food goes directly to help feed residents there.

“It's a simple system; we do the legwork of picking up and transporting the food Chartwells workers set aside,” said Ubert. “This means Hesed House can better help equip people to live stable and secure lives.”

With graduation approaching, Jaskowiak will be passing the torch to Scott Williams ’20, who will be the chapter’s next president. Students interested in participating can reach him at srwilliams@noctrl.edu.