WRAPS turns trash into treasure

Not all leftover cafeteria food gets thrown away. Here at Williams, a group of students is taking what would be one person’s trash and turning it into another’s saving grace. The Williams Recovery of All Perishable Surplus (WRAPS) program is comprised of dedicated students brings leftover dining hall food to local community service organizations.

The WRAPS program, headed by Alison Koppe ’07, depends entirely on volunteers who pick up food from the dining halls and deliver the surplus to organizations. This is done about four times a week, with each pair of volunteers taking part in a two-week rotation.

The participants in the program speak very enthusiastically of the work they do for the organization.

“I think it’s a much-needed opportunity to relieve stress – you get uninterrupted bonding time with one of your friends, and … sing along very loudly to bad songs on the radio,” Koppe said.

Other WRAPS volunteers sing the praises of the close relationships with peers that are fostered in such close quarters, as well as the physique that comes with lugging excess food. “It requires heavy lifting and a chill partner with whom you feel comfortable killing an hour and a half,” Seulghee Lee ’07 said. “I have met a couple people through WRAPS whom I would not have met otherwise. You get to know a good bit about that person, too, given the situation,”

WRAPS also receives a great deal of help from the College. Dining services has been very supportive of the program since its inception. Additionally, the Chaplain’s office provides the car used for community service (dubbed “Rambo” by Jonathan Dowse ’06) for the cause, “and doesn’t even complain when we accidentally spill food in it,” Koppe said.

The volunteers deliver the surplus food to three organizations in North Adams. The first is the Church Outreach to Youth Center, an organization that provides support for at-risk youths. Food is also delivered to the Louison House, a homeless shelter in practice, but not in name. for individuals and families in all of north Berkshire County. The program also delivers food to the North Adams Salvation Army, with whom the WRAPS drivers have a very close relationship.

“It’s an important service and a good link for Williams students to make, seeing how we fit into the greater community,” Lee said. “There are real communities and real people in the area, with real social and economic problems. Poverty, hunger, and other forms of social misery are not abstractions . . . we, those of immense privilege, must discover how we fit into the picture.”

Student participants are very aware of their importance within the community and how they can use their position to better the whole. By serving the community, WRAPS volunteers are able to act as a very important connection between the College and those in the surrounding locale.

“WRAPS enables the College to take something which to us would just be waste – something which is just surplus – and get it to those in our community who really need and appreciate it,” Koppe said. “We’re so lucky to be able to serve as that link.”

The future of WRAPS is in good hands thanks to its solid and able leadership. “[Koppe] is a visionary leader. She’ll take us to the higher level, though we don’t know what that is quite yet,” Lee said.

For the time being, WRAPS has 14 regular volunteers, with others who occasionally step in. Koppe invites people to join in the effort by e-mailing her.

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