The Feed the Freezer program at Colby-Sawyer began in 2013 when employee Sandi Brownwell formed the group to create a food recovery project in the state of New Hampshire. The purpose was to package meals from leftover food in the dining hall and donate them to area food pantries. Throughout the years, the club has increased and decreased in size with the number of students that were involved in the organization.
Two years ago, the club was down to one member when then-freshmen Ashtin Burbank ’22 and Sara Osborne ’22 decided to join the group because their RA had asked them to come to a meeting. Burbank and Osborne were immediately hooked and soon became co-presidents of the group. Burbank said, “Over the past two years, we have only had about 3-4 people. This year we were at the activities fair and have actually expanded to 15 members.”
Before the arrival of the pandemic, excess food in the dining hall was packaged, weighed and placed in containers in the freezer. Three local organizations benefited from the meals: Danbury Food Pantry, New London Food Pantry and the Kearsarge Food Hub. Due to the restrictions of students being in the kitchen during COVID-19, Parkhurst Dining employee Cheryl Lawson has taken up the responsibility of packing all of the meals by herself.
Since the students were not allowed in the kitchen this semester, Burbank and Osborne had to think of alternative ways the club members could stay involved on campus. Osborne said, “COVID has been a challenge for the club. It has caused us to try to find other ways to give back to the community.” The group held a Wellness Wednesday pop-up event, during which they picked apples at a local orchard and then made caramel apples for the students on campus.
The club has also planned a food drive in the dining hall. Students, faculty and staff can donate non-perishable food items or their dining dollars so that Parkhurst Dining can purchase food items to donate to the drive. Anyone who donates to the cause will be entered in a raffle in which they can win either a turkey or one of two pies. The collected food will be donated to the Danbury Food Pantry and the New London Pantry prior to Thanksgiving.
Burbank and Osborne hope some things might change for next semester. They are hoping they can get back into the kitchen to package food and possibly add some smaller events, such as movie nights or educational-themed programs. They also hope to have the group go to a soup kitchen once a week.
Burbank says the pandemic has actually been a blessing in disguise. “We have come closer together as a club. We are focusing on wellness and reaching out to thank the community for their contributions,” said Burbank.