Nov. 5, 2009

Making a difference, one sandwich at a time

by Paula Van Brocklin

ISU Dining provides meals to hungry students and staff daily. Now, the department also is helping feed those off campus who need a good meal.

Last summer, ISU Dining began donating perishable food items from Hawthorn Market and Café to Food at First, a free-meal program run by First United Methodist Church, 516 Kellogg. With the help of local churches and organizations, the program provides a meal six days a week to anyone who needs it. No paperwork is required, and no questions are asked. Each month, the program serves between 600 and 800 meals.

Not an exact science

ISU Dining attempts to prepare the appropriate amount of food each day, but there's still some guesswork involved.

"So much of what we do depends on the weather. If it rains or snows, it changes people's eating habits," said Nancy Levandowsi, director of ISU Dining. "It's our very scientific method of a wild guess."

When there are leftovers, Hawthorn employees box up perishable items -- like wraps, muffins, fruit cups, deli meat and bread -- for the Food at First volunteers to pick up. A typical day's leftovers only may be six wraps, three croissants and a dozen fruit cups.

"The food is still good, but because of our quality control, we don't keep it more than a day," said Tatiana Twedt, manager of Hawthorn Market and Café.

Twedt added that student workers are not allowed to take the extras either, so giving the food away to someone who needs it is better than composting it.

Expansion plans

Levandowski said ISU Dining has donated food to various charitable organizations for years, and she hopes the Food at First partnership grows to include donations from other ISU dining facilities.

"The problem is finding volunteers to pick up the food," Levandowski said.