My name is Tori Londrigan and I’m a junior Environmental Studies-Biology major. This semester I had the pleasure of expanding upon my previous work with Blue Mountain Action Council Food Bank as a community outreach intern. Over the summer, I was a gleaning intern, coordinating the volunteer-based harvest of surplus produce from local farms. Now, I’ve shifted my focus towards local businesses, who often have leftover food that can be donated to local meal centers and soup kitchens.
First, I reached out to the six main help centers that offer weekly free meals in Walla Walla to see whether they accept donations as well as what kinds of food would be the most beneficial based on their method of preparation. After learning the needs of the various meal programs, I began calling restaurants around Walla Walla asking about how they deal with leftover food (if they have any) and whether they’d be willing to donate. To my surprise, most restaurants either already donate their waste to places like the Christian Aid Center (woohoo!) or don’t have any waste at all! For those who don’t have a program set-up yet, I’ve provided guidelines for safe and efficient donations and helped coordinate delivery times and methods between them and the meal center whose needs best aligned with theirs. A couple restaurants that I’ve helped to start donating food include Whoopemup Hollow Café, Cugini’s Italian Imports, and Wingman Birdz. To establish continuity between my project and future people interest in Walla Walla’s food system, I’ve developed a spreadsheet containing all the restaurants and grocery stores I’ve reached out to and where they donate their food.
Since most of my work as an intern is self-managed and occurs outside the Food Bank, I initially struggled to find a comfortable, productive space where I could make these phone calls. Thanks to the resources at Whitman’s Student Engagement Center, I was able to schedule weekly sessions in the interview suite that allowed me to focus and get my work done. I also love going into the warehouse a couple times a week to help with their grocery rescue program and ever-hectic monthly food giveaways.
I believe that changes to local food systems, such as gleaning or restaurant donations, can cultivate a culture of equitable and sustainable practices that build the foundation for widespread change, even if they appear small at first. To reduce wide-spread food insecurity and food waste, initiatives on the local, state, and federal levels must all be put to action, and I am happy to have contributed to and learned from Walla Walla’s.