Pomona College program redistributes food to local community 

Pomona College students and Food Recovery Network volunteers Sunny Jeong-Eimer (left) and Eva Molina deliver food to Inland Valley Hope Partners. Courier photo/Reia Li

By Reia Li | Special to the Courier

After a three-year hiatus during the pandemic, Claremont Colleges student organization Food Recovery Network, which provides leftover dining hall food to people in need, recently relaunched.

“The big goal for [FRN] is, one, to help feed people in the local community that need the help and, two, to reduce the amount of food waste going in the landfill,” said Pomona College Campus Executive Chef Travis Ellis.

Student volunteers gather leftovers at Pomona College’s dining halls Monday through Wednesday during the school year, said Pomona College student Gina Yum, a co-coordinator at FRN who helped restart the program.

Pomona College students and Food Recovery Network volunteers Sunny Jeong-Eimer (left) and Eva Molina deliver food to Inland Valley Hope Partners. Courier photo/Reia Li

The trays of donated food — 30 to 40 pounds of it each day —  has in some instances been heated, but none has been put out on the serving line in the dining halls, Ellis said.

The volunteers then take the food to Inland Valley Hope Partners’ Pomona office, where it either gets distributed to local food pantries or is used to feed families and single women in its Our House Family Shelter.

“When you go into the dining halls for a volunteer shift, you can see like 20 different trays of food and you can see the amount of food that you’re helping to stop from going to waste,” Yum said. “And it just kind of reminds you that what you’re doing is important.”

“Anything that hasn’t even been out there where people can pick off of it … Anything that is still edible, looks decent, tastes decent, we can cool down and give to the food recovery people,” Ellis said.

Inland Valley Hope Partners CEO and President Kameron Grosvenor said that the nonprofit’s partnership with FRN is especially important after the passage of SB 1383, a 2022 California law aimed at reducing methane emissions and food waste. The bill requires Californians to recover or compost 20% of edible food that would otherwise make it to a landfill.

Pomona College student and Food Recovery Network volunteer Eva Molina driving to deliver food to Inland Valley Hope Partners. Courier photo/Reia Li

“Now that SB 1383 has gone through, we are starting to get more partners in food recovery and FRN has really paved the way for us,” Grosvenor told the Courier in an email. “Our goal is in this partnership is really to reduce food waste and feed people in our neighborhood who need the food!”

Sunny Jeong-Eimer, a Pomona College student and FRN volunteer, said they initially joined FRN out of a desire to help redistribute Claremont Colleges resources to the local community.

“There’s just like pretty drastic wealth disparity between the colleges and local areas,” Jeong-Eimer said. “So redistributing those resources in whatever way, whether it’s the food or other monetary means, is probably a good idea.”

As FRN continues to grow, Yum said she hopes to begin picking up and donating food from the dining halls at the other Claremont Colleges, and to start working with additional community partners to distribute food to more people in need. She also hopes FRN can one day expand its database of volunteers enough to make daily deliveries. The organization currently has about 15 regular drivers.

Before the pandemic, volunteers from FRN would deliver food five to seven days a week, according to Ellis.

“We kind of started midyear this time,” Ellis said, “So hopefully next year, with starting earlier in the school year, we’ll be able to do … five days, hopefully seven, if we get the students who want to volunteer.”

Yum said the power of FRN in its community of volunteers.

“One person’s efforts to be more sustainable might not be incredibly huge for the greater environmental movement,” she said. But “when people are able to perform more sustainable efforts together, I think you can really make a big impact.”

Reia Li is a junior at Pomona College, where she writes for The Student Life. She hopes to pursue a career in journalism after graduation.


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