Archive for March, 2016

Elmhurst Moves to Fight Food Waste and Feed People

Posted on: March 29th, 2016 by jmahoney No Comments

Sustainability has become an increasingly central focus at Elmhurst College. This year, with the creation of the my Sustainability Internship, Chartwells has become a leader in the efforts on campus. We have conducted a waste audit, encouraged proper portion size, increased knowledge of correct recycling, and our biggest initiative yet – started our own chapter of the Food Recovery Network to help feed people and fight hunger. Essentially, students work with local agencies and campus staff to coordinate the donation of the cafeteria leftovers. Started by students at the University of Maryland in 2011, this organization has recovered over 1 million pounds of food and counting!


Food Recovery Network came to Elmhurst because Steven Goodwin, Director of Dining Services, had tasked me with looking into it. Starting a chapter consists of seeking out a leadership team, partnering with a local agency to accept the food, coordinating the logistics with the kitchen staff, and recruiting student volunteers. I was surprised to find that the most challenging task of the entire process was finding an agency to accept donations. After contacting shelters, non-profit organizations, churches, and pantries, I could not find an agency within our zip code that accepts fresh food. Whether they lacked adequate space, had no means of storing the food in refrigerators, or could not do anything with the food, it seemed I had to search elsewhere. I partnered with the Schaumburg Township Food Pantry, located in Hoffman Estates, IL, where I had previously worked as an Archivist. Since November, 2015, we have donated over 1,000 pounds of food, feeding hundreds of families.


As more and more students volunteer with Food Recovery Network, they start to learn about food waste, portion size, and basic cafeteria operations, further breaking down the barriers between students and Chartwells, and improving the student perception on our food quality, price, and service. I am excited to see the development and growth of our chapter over the years to come.

Alternative Spring Break 2.0

Posted on: March 29th, 2016 by jmahoney No Comments

Overall, this trip is one million times better than last year, for one million and one reasons. No one has gotten on my nerves, everyone has worked together, the site leaders and advisers are so giving and flexible, and there has been zero drama. I also have heard no complaints, no negativity, and no problems. Maybe I’m just having a better time, therefore I am noticing all of the positives, maybe its because the work is not as physically exhausting, maybe its because we have a smaller group, or maybe its because it truly is just a better trip. The main overall theme that has occurred revolves around the tedious work we have done. We sorted hangers, painted for 21 hours, spackled, caulked, and cut branches. We were not building from the ground up, or seeing a big difference in the progress of the house. Yet, we all got it. Still, no one complained about these small tasks and saw the the “greater good” that was coming of it. Through their work: they had personal accomplishments like conquering their fear of heights, getting progressively better at installing doors or base boards, or mentally overcoming the boredom or frustration with performing the same task over and over. The spirits were high and no one gave up. No one sat around or refused to do certain tasks. We helped each other and encouraged each other. We hung in there until our tasks became like second nature to us, and that was empowering. We realized and better understood that our little tasks enabled the next group that came in to be closer to finishing. We removed our self-interests and worked with those families in mind. Nearly everyone’s “highs” of the day was being able ot talk with the families when they were working with us on site. Some of them are future homeowners getting their sweat equity hours in. They enjoyed listening to these families express their gratitude and appreciation and talk about what they wanted to do with each room and how to decorate. They also respected any part of their life story they shared.