Appalachian State University Food Services’ food recovery program helps feed Watauga County

In the back of the Hunger and Health Coalition building, on the east side of Boone, Jane Ann Coe stands at the window of the Food Recovery Kitchen waiting to be handed food for her family. After that, she said, she is going to sell her parents’ wedding bands to get by between pay checks.

The bag Coe is handed contains a familiar sight for many Appalachian State University students: chicken sandwiches still with the Appalachian Food Services sticker sealing the wrapping and to-go boxes filled with food from Roess Dining Hall.

For the past 10 years, Appalachian’s Food Services has wrapped up extra food and donated it to the Hunger and Health Coalition.

“We didn’t want to see any food go to waste, so we decided we would form this partnership and see where it went,” Assistant Director of Food Services Charlie Wallin said. “Here we are 10 years later and it’s been great.”

Since the partnership started, the donations from Appalachian have grown from 45 boxes of food a day to 65.

In October 2014 alone, Appalachian donated 3,463 pounds of food to the coalition – food that would have been composted otherwise.

Sustainable dining

Appalachian sees the relationship as not only an opportunity to serve the surrounding community but also work towards sustainable dining.

“From our side it really goes along with Appalachian’s commitment to sustainability,” said Heather Brandon, university program specialist for Food Services. “We eliminate a significant portion of what would be food waste for us. It’s going to another source and being re-used rather than being wasted.”

Teddy Watson has been recovering food from Appalachian and other donors for the coalition since 2007, working close to 40-hour weeks as a volunteer.

“When we don’t get anything from Appalachian, we really hurt,” he said. “Appalachian is mostly our biggest donor in terms of hot meals.”

Watson picks up food from Appalachian’s Roess Dining Hall multiple times a day. He arrives at the coalition with tubs and boxes of hot meals, sometimes a bag of biscuits, sometimes sandwiches and burgers – all from Appalachian’s dining halls.

“We have clients come in and say ‘what has the college had today,’” Watson said.

‘A blessing’

The food from the university is used in two ways. Some food is made into frozen meals and distributed one per family member. Food that can be wrapped individually such as sandwiches, bread and pizza slices is given out as needed.

Coe has been visiting the Hunger and Health Coalition for over six weeks after she lost her job.

“It has been so great,” Coe said. “It’s just such a blessing to know that there is something here on a weekend like this before the check comes in. It means a lot.”