EWING — It's a feel-good story for the holiday season, but the efforts occur during most of the year.

Yash Valia and Christopher Infosino, seniors at The College of New Jersey, are in their fourth year of leading a food recovery program that collects excess groceries from local supermarkets and distributes those goods to area soup kitchens and food pantries.

"The Ewing ShopRite was the first place that we took food from, and then we donated it to the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen," Valia told New Jersey 101.5FM.

Since that day in August 2020, their efforts have resulted in the recovery of 20,000 pounds of giving.

Valia came up with the idea during his first year at TCNJ. Working at a coffee shop during his senior of high school, he had seen how much food was just thrown into the trash at the end of each day.

Valia and Infosino met with dining services on campus and soon launched a local chapter of the Food Recovery Network. They have a number of local organizations signed up to receive what they recover from three ShopRite locations in the area.

"We try to do it both during the semester and over break, just because the need in the community doesn't stop," Infosino said.

The club, which now has a membership of more than 100 TCNJ students, aims to make pickups twice a week.

Photo provided by TCNJ
Photo provided by TCNJ

"There are some days that we walk out of there with six shopping carts full of food. There are other days that we walk out with five totes," Infosino said.

Most of what's received during recovery efforts are baked goods — they're still safe to consume, but they're coming close to their sell-by date.

"Because of the turnover of the organizations that we deliver to, it's gone within a day or two from there," Infosino said.

Students also receive items with ripped or dented packaging.

The chapter is interested in securing excess food from the campus dining hall in the future. Anyone who knows a local eatery or retail establishment that wants to donate can contact the group at frn@tcnj.edu.

"We're always looking for more donors, and we're always looking for more people to take our food," Valia said.

Dino Flammia is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at dino.flammia@townsquaremedia.com

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