Helping people not to go hungry
“We can help improve the health and well being of the people in the community.”
Erin Kelly, Internship Program Director for UC's Nutrition Program discusses Utica College joining the Food Recovery Network and how the institution is doing its part to combat hunger.
Q: Tell us a bit about yourself.
A: I am a registered dietitian. I went back to school when I was almost 40 for a master’s in nutrition science, and became a registered dietitian in 2015. I’ve been at Utica for about a year and a half full time. A year before that I also taught as an adjunct. My current position is internship program director for the nutrition program.
Q: Why did you choose nutrition?
A: I had a career teaching exercise science courses at a few different schools. As I was teaching, I found myself incorporating nutrition more and more, doing my own reading
and research. It was kind of a perfect storm. When I went back to school, the job I held was not a stable position, and the timing seemed right to become a dietitian. I knew I would be done by the time my son hit middle school, and this was something I took a personal interest in as an athlete and someone interested in health and wellness.
Q: Can you explain what exactly the Food Recovery Network is?
A: It is a national organization that essentially saves food that would have been thrown away and gives it to hunger relief organizations. It’s mainly on college campuses, and it is really meant to be a mostly student-run organization, as it was students at the University of Maryland who founded it in 2011.
Q: Why is it important that UC is now a member?
A: It’s important for a couple different reasons. Hunger is a problem everywhere, and one of my core beliefs is that as nutrition professionals, it is part of our job to make sure that everyone has access to enough healthy food regardless of who they are or how much money they have. Another issue is that one third of the food produced every year in this country is wasted, and a lot of it is perfectly good food that could go to feed people. The nutrition students decided that this was something important for us all to be involved in. They were excited and said let’s get this going.
Q: How will UC make a difference in the Utica community by being a member?
A: At the very heart of it, we can help people not to go hungry. Since November, we have donated about 500 pounds of food. We can help improve the health and well being of the people in the community. Right now we have a group of five to six core nutrition students. We are always looking for volunteers, the time commitment is pretty small and people can chose to come as often or as infrequently as they want. They can email me if interested, all they have to do is a brief food safety training that I will provide.
Q: What was the process like to become a member? What did it involve?
A: First, we had to form a student leadership group since they are the ones who will take charge at each of the recoveries. We had to make arrangements with Damian Boehlert, dining services general manager, and he was completely on board and happy to work with us. We also had to find our partner agencies, and we had to sign agreements with them that they were willing to take our food. The student advisory group had to do a food safety training that was given by the Food Recovery Network to make sure our collection procedures were safe. Finally, we had to do two trial-run recoveries to make sure we could go through the process. So in January, we became an official chapter. Recovery runs happen twice a week on Wednesdays and Fridays. On Wednesdays, food is donated to the Rescue Mission and on Fridays, it is donated
to Hope House.
Q: What do you do in your free time?
A: I don’t have a lot, but for most of it, I like to read, knit, hang out with my family and my dogs. I spend a lot of time attending my son’s basketball and baseball games throughout the year.
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