Special Reports

Fresno State students make a dent in food waste

The Manchester Farmer's Market at Shields and Blackstone avenues is home to dozens of local vendors who offer fresh produce and locally grown foods for sale each Friday. At the end of the day, what doesn't get sold normally lands in the trash.

But a group of Fresno State students is trying to save the discards so they can feed other Valley residents who might otherwise go hungry.

"We want to become the link between those who need food and those who have it," said Rose Cardoso, one of the leaders of the Fresno State Food Recovery Network.

The Food Recovery Network is a national organization with 95 chapters all around the country. The goal of the organization is to prevent good food from going to waste.

Cardoso, along with several other Fresno State students, formed the local Food Recovery Network about a year ago. Since then, the group has recovered more than 280,000 pounds of food.

"We are in the hub of agriculture, yet so much useable produce is wasted every day," Cardoso said. "It's time for Fresno to cure the disparity."

Anoy Phuangsavath, former vice president of the Fresno State chapter, attended last week's Manchester Farmer's Market to help with the food recovery.

"If the food is grown here, why is it being wasted?" Phuangsavath said. "It's not a matter of not having the food, it's recklessly throwing it away."

Cardoso works with her organization to meet the vendors at the farmer's market and ask them to donate any leftover produce that can no longer be sold. The group also reaches out to local restaurants like Chico's and Dusty Buns.

"We make sure to meet as many local vendors as we can so they know about us," Cardoso said. "It's a community effort. They give us the food and we take it where it needs to go."

The group takes whatever food they collect to the Newman Center or Community Food Bank. At the Newman Center, the students prepare hot meals for those in need, using the recovered food.

"We'll probably serve about 50 people today," Cardoso said.

Cardoso understands the severity of this crisis because of a personal connection to the cause.

"I came from a food-unstable household," Cardoso said. "We never knew where our next meal was coming from, and it makes me cry seeing so much food go to waste."

Cardoso also has formed a relationship with the director of Manchester Farmer's Market, Manuel Yanez. He and his wife Mary have been running the farmer's market for the past three years. Yanez hosts roughly 30 to 35 vendors every Friday.

"With the economy and the drought, every bit of food is valuable," Yanez said. "It's good to see we don't have to throw this food away and it can go to a good cause."

Cardoso and her team work to not only recover food, but also raise awareness.

"It's really important that we educate people on the reality of this situation," Cardoso said.

"Our philosophy is to do what we can with what we have," Cardoso said. "It might not be a lot, but we are making a difference in our own way."

How to help

For more information on the Fresno State Food Recovery Network, or to find out how to get involved, contact Rose Cardoso at (209) 247-5472.