UIC Students Collect Most Food for Homeless of any Campus Nationwide

Food from the UI Hospital has been packaged in aluminum containers and is ready to be transported to Fransiscan House, a nearby homeless shelter.

In the Fall of 2020, volunteers with UIC’s Food Recovery Network (FRN) chapter collected 7,589 pounds of food and donated it to area homeless shelters. UIC has been recognized for the achievement of the most recovered pounds by any FRN chapter nationwide in the Fall of 2020.

Even amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, students have pushed through to continue doing food recoveries and redistributing what is collected to those in need around Chicago. Remembering the struggle of the homeless in communities in Chicago, volunteer Karen Portillo stated, “With reading news articles and looking at my surroundings, we need food reform more than ever, especially in the COVID-19 era. Working with FRN has made me realize we have a lot of work to do.”

FRN UIC has been recovering food since July of 2014, and thanks to the efforts of their volunteers, they have continued to grow more and more each year, especially with help from the UI Hospital Kitchen since 2018.

Another of FRN’s volunteers, Chris Armstrong, recounts his experience this past year volunteering weekly with the chapter, “I started doing food recoveries in August 2020, collecting food once a week, and it has been such a rewarding experience. Not only has it given me a reason to get out of my house and interact with others face-to-face but being able to see the amount of food that we have kept out of landfills, and to see the homeless people that are directly benefiting from these actions, has been very humbling."

Not only does the food recovered help out those with food insecurities, but it also diverts carbon emissions. When food is thrown out and sent to landfill, the decomposition process releases methane, a harmful greenhouse gas. According to FRN National, UIC's food recovery efforts have prevented 14,419 kg of CO2 from entering the atmosphere.

Snehitha Talugula, president of FRN UIC, said, “I am overjoyed of the impact FRN has had on our Chicago community and I am so thankful for all of our volunteers and the support of UIC and the Office of Planning, Sustainability and Project Management! As we move into 2021, I plan on keeping our momentum in food recoveries in order to continue to positively impact our local Chicago homeless community and reduce food waste in the process. I am proud to be part of such an amazing and inspiring organization!”

The Food Recovery Network is always accepting new members, and as soon as restrictions are lifted, there will be more opportunities for recoveries throughout campus. More information can be found on the Chapter’s Facebook page, found here.