Cornell Dining Donates 1300 Meals to FDN

Written by Elena Flash, February 2022

If you had over 1300 sandwiches and packaged entrees that you did not need, what would you do? Call Friendship Donation Network! Last month when overnight temperatures were near zero and daytime highs only in the 20s, Cornell Dining prepared meals for students who would need to quarantine upon returning to campus after winter break. Fortunately, the number of students needing to quarantine due to COVID was far fewer than anticipated. Cornell staff quickly adjusted the amount of food they prepared to more closely match the amount needed, but the initial surplus was more than 1300 meals! This was a perfect example of the role of a food rescue organization. Even when businesses and institutions have the best intentions and staff dedicated to reducing surplus, it is a challenge to get it exactly right.  Rather than waste the food, they called FDN.  We sprang into action to rescue the food and redistribute it to people in need.

The food was delivered over four days between January 21 and January 27 and included wrapped sandwiches with chicken, beef and vegetarian options.  For example, there were healthy and delicious tofu bahn mi and kimchi sandwich rolls.  The prepared entrees were well balanced and nutritious and also included chicken, beef and vegetarian options.  Beef bourguignon with broccoli and mashed potato was one offering, and another was chicken and rice. There were also small green salads.

FDN volunteers met the Cornell trucks at the Just Be Cause Center.  Nancy Siegele reports: “A fellow Friday-team co-worker and I had the opportunity to receive and help unload the huge number of sandwiches that Cornell sent over several weeks ago.  They were hearty and delicious-looking, and we kept marveling at how many there were.  We filled up the shelves in the CoolBot, thinking about the wonderful meals they would provide.  Several days later, as I recall, most of these were gone, but more lovely food from Cornell had appeared.  It really felt like we were rescuing food in the most basic sense.  As the driver said, it was so great that this food would be used instead of thrown away.”

FDN volunteers delivered this beautiful food to our food distribution partners. Meals and sandwiches went to Second Wind Cottages, OAR, Mutual Aid food sharing sites, Immaculate Conception Pantry, No Mas Lagrimas, Tompkins Community Action, Tompkins County Mental Health PROS, St. John’s Community Services, Loaves and Fishes, Salvation Army, Ithaca Kitchen Cupboard, residents of West Village Apartments, and more!

Theresa Fulton, a volunteer with the Mutual Aid Food Sharing Pantries group, the blue cupboards that you might have seen throughout the county (and outside of) shared this about the Cornell donation: 

“Getting food donations for this is fabulous, as otherwise we do this at our own expense. The sandwiches and ready-to-eat meals donated by Cornell were fabulous as this is exactly the type of food most requested. Especially for our homeless community members, a pantry full of sandwiches must have seemed like a miracle! I packed my car full of these sandwiches and meals, was able to stock all my usual pantries and then some, and since I still had a box of sandwiches left, gave it to a woman in Cincinnatus that I was delivering potatoes to, so yes, these sandwiches made their way all around Tompkins and Cortland counties and as far as Cincinnatus.”

Other FDN volunteers took food directly to individuals that they know in the community.  Mary Betters, a FDN partner, took at least 300 sandwiches and 300 meals to people in Varna, Etna, Freeville, McLean, Cortland, Cincinnatus, Willet, Marathon and Hunts Corners. Many of these people are experiencing homelessness or have bare bones refrigerators and cupboards.  

Monika Roth and Rima Grimes, also FDN volunteers, took meals to elderly friends who are not able to get out much especially this time of year.  They were able to feed themselves healthy food this way.  Monika said:  “My friend who takes care of her nearly 100 year old mother exclaimed “you saved us”, the process of full-time elder care leaves little time to prepare meals…having 4 ready to go meals helped ease their already full day.  Thanks to Cornell for sharing.”

We are proud that FDN was recognized by Cornell as the go-to organization to receive this beautiful nutritious food.  We are having an impact on food producers.  They now think of us before wasting food.  

We also want to thank our food distribution partners in this community endeavor.  They responded quickly to get the food out to their constituents.  

And last but not least, a huge thank you to the many volunteers who responded to the unscheduled need to unload the Cornell trucks, stack the food at the Center, pick it up and deliver it to food distribution partners and to individuals throughout their neighborhoods.  

Volunteer Yvonne Fogarty perfectly described this truly impressive food rescue effort: “How lucky this county is to have FDN. Who can even imagine what would have happened to all the lovely food Cornell donated to FDN due to over estimating the need on their end. The weather was cold and the food gave many the feeling they are cared for.”