The following is a letter from FRN’s Founder and Executive Director Ben Simon, sent on April 3, 2015.
Today I would like to announce some big news. I have decided that I will be transitioning out of the Executive Director role at Food Recovery Network this summer.
It is the dream of every founder of a startup to build something bigger than themselves. And it is the mission of every leader to make themselves replaceable by empowering others around them. In the past few months, I have come to feel very confident that Food Recovery Network has reached a place where it will continue to grow and thrive without its founder as the Executive Director.
I see it in the dedication of our staff and board, in the passion of our student leaders, in the wisdom of our advisors and in the commitment of our donors. It is all of you who make FRN what it is and give me confidence that the next four years will be even better than the first four.
I would like to thank all of you for giving me the amazing privilege of leading this great organization. Together with your support, our students have started chapters at 127+ colleges and fed over 550,000 meals to hungry Americans. We have reached tens of millions of people with our simple message and put higher education on track to be the first sector where food recovery is the norm. Although I will be moving on from the ED role, I will be staying involved in FRN to help develop Food Recovery Certified and other new initiatives. My amazing co-founders Mia Zavalij and Cam Pascual who have been with FRN since its first recoveries will also be staying on as full-time staff. The next year will be a very exciting time for FRN as we continue to expand the student movement while exploring some huge new opportunities.
Our board is leading a rigorous search for a new ED to take FRN to new heights and we need your help! If you know someone who might be a good fit, please encourage them to learn more and apply here.
As for me, I will be moving to Oakland, California to launch a social business called Imperfect. Our mission is to sell “ugly” fruits and veggies for a reduced price in order to divert some of the 6 billion pounds of produce that is wasted each year due to looks. In 2015, as we increasingly feel the effects of climate change and as California farms suffer from drought, we can’t keep wasting 20% of our produce just because it’s funny-looking. I’m honored to be joined by FRN co-founder Ben Chesler and “ugly” produce expert Ron Clark, and we will be unveiling the brand in the coming weeks.
The most important word in FRN’s name is the last one—Network. It’s not any one person but all of us who have brought this idea to life and will carry our mission forward into this next exciting phase. So, in this important moment for FRN, I would like to ask you to make a donation in honor of our first four years to help take FRN to the next level in our next four years. Thanks to support from Newman’s Own Foundation, all donations up to $10,000 will be matched dollar for dollar!
Founder and Executive Director, Food Recovery Network
As we barreled up the stairs of the Harambee House, an intentional living-learning community on the southeast end of Grand Rapids, my leadership team and I were unsure of what would come of our event. A few days before thanksgiving, the Food Recovery Network from Calvin College, as well as many other sustainability-focused groups on campus, gathered and conjured up the idea of hosting a Letter Offering, which is an event sponsored by Bread for the World, and is aimed at gathering people to write letters towards local officials. The hope is then that those handwritten letters, which we addressed to junior Senator Debbie Stabenow, would be read with humbled hearts as we sought to address the food injustices in this country.
Earlier in the school year, our chapter celebrated Food Day 2014 as we gathered together to enjoy delicious locally produced food and lamented over the injustice we saw in the documentary, A Place at the Table. As last spring was our first semester of recovering food, we were intentional about being active in the movement towards seeking food justice at the systemic level, and ways in which Calvin students are beginning to do this is through the watching of documentaries and writing of letters.
It wasn’t the feasting on fajitas and tasty desserts or the singing of songs that I will remember long after the letters are tossed in the paper shredder, but it is the way in which a group of college kids gathered on a Saturday night and wrote letters to a woman they had never met. I was utterly fed up with the way in which those who are struggling financially and down on their luck are treated in this country, especially those who benefit from S.N.A.P. (i.e. food stamps) We have brothers and sisters here in Grand Rapids who not only do not have the financial capital to go and purchase groceries, but probably couldn’t tell you where a grocery store is located in the area.
This is a problem, and at Calvin College, we are no longer going to ignore. We can’t.
I have a friend who has a sticker on her laptop, one that inspires me upon sight. It’s a quote from William Wilberforce, the English politician and abolitionist. It reads, “You may choose to look the other way but you can never again say that you did not know.”
Those involved with the Food Recovery network at Calvin College, can no longer say that we did not know. We no longer have the luxury of living in ignorant bliss, but have been called to live faithfully on the front lines as we fight for food justice in this country and throughout the world. And we’ll do it one plate of mashed potatoes and one handwritten letter at a time.
Hello fellow Food Recoverers (Recoveries? Recoverites?)!
My name is Rachel Auerbach and I am a part of the Food Recovery Network chapter at Denison University in Ohio. Food recovery here has been around for a couple years, but just recently we amped it up to include two pickups a day for both our dining halls. We collaborate with the student organization Homelessness and Hunger (HnH) and we recently held an event that might interest you all!
Denison University is located in Granville, OH which is about 15 minutes away from Newark, OH, a city that has about 10% of families and 13% of the population below the poverty line. Every semester, HnH holds a “Homelessness and Hunger Week” where we try to really amplify our efforts to get the whole Denison community involved in our efforts to help out different organizations in Newark. We held our Homelessness and Hunger Week this year in mid-October and started out the week by hosting a movie night where we watched Pay It Forward (if you haven’t seen it, I recommend it!) to get everyone motivated to help. We hosted sandwich drives in our dining halls and made over 1000 sandwiches (meat & cheese and PBJ) to donate. They ended up going to organizations like the Salvation Army, YES Clubhouse (an afterschool program for youth who are considered financially disadvantaged), New Beginnings (a battered women’s shelter), a few elementary schools, and many other organizations. We also made a sort of homemade trail mix for the kids at YES Clubhouse and ended up donating 70 snack bags. Lastly, we held a sleep-out on our Academic Quad, where students slept outside all night to raise awareness about homelessness. We had over 25 people stay the entire night (and it was cold!) with many others joining us to hang out for a bit. We also continued our food pickup as usual, and advertised it to more students!
There are two amazing things about Homelessness and Hunger Week in my opinion. The first is that it allows us to help the Newark community in a huge way during a time of year that is not always filled with donations. The gratitude expressed by everyone at the various organizations always makes the week worthwhile. Secondly, Homelessness and Hunger week gets Denison students involved and talking about the issues of homelessness, hunger, poverty, privilege, and many other topics. Seeing fellow students sleeping outside prompts people to stop and ask about it; hosting sandwich-making events in public places like dining halls encourages people who might otherwise not participate to put some gloves on and give us a hand; starting discussions in classrooms, on our campus radio station, and in our newspaper make students, who are often in a bubble of papers and classes, more aware of these very local issues. And best of all, people have tons of fun participating! We get to work together with Greek members, athletes, classmates, faculty, dining hall staff, and other people we may not have gotten the chance to work with.
In addition to organizing our chapter’s food pickup for FRN, Homelessness and Hunger Week is one of my favorite events on campus. If you all would like to know more information about how to start one at your campus, please don’t hesitate to contact me!
Denison University ‘16
The following is the third post in our series of blogs detailing FRN’s core values–six key components that motivate us and influence the work we do. Member Support Fellow Marlene Haggblade walks us through core value number three. Stay tuned for the next three! What are your core values? Let us know in the comments below!
Many of the students in our movement had no idea they could start or lead their FRN chapters–until they did. At FRN, we meet people where they are to maintain and build on students’ optimism and energy around making a difference while helping them work with existing institutions. We accept that everyone we work with has his or her own way of doing things, inspired by experience and creativity and we are flexible and adaptable to ensure that everyone can make unique contributions to the food recovery effort.
Take a minute to close your eyes and picture a leader. Who materializes in front of your very eyes? Your wonderful mom? Nelson Mandela? Your friend who fought and survived lymphoma? Hillary Clinton? The student body president? Chimamanda Adichie? Who is a leader?
I argue that within each individual lies a potential leader. And believe me, I was initially skeptical to come to this conclusion! But, I don’t think leadership can or should be myopically defined as those who hold ‘top’ positions in groups, organizations, or countries. Leaders exist all around us. People have and will continue to constantly influence our lives–an ebb and flow of actions, words, and passion. Influence, a multifaceted and complex endeavor, comes from the top-down, from the bottom-up, from the left, from the right, and often from the people we interact with most on a daily basis. Jim Rohn, a famous motivational speaker, said we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with. Who does that make you?
Leadership calls for every one of us to influence and to change. To embrace our roles as a leader, rather than excuse ourselves simply because we are not, nor will we ever be Martin Luther King, Jr. Leaders surround us, support us, guide us. The diversity and depth truly penetrates present static definitions of leadership. You are a leader. What kind of leader will you be?
The following is the second post in our series of blogs detailing FRN’s core values–six key components that motivate us and influence the work we do. Member Support VISTA Mika Weinstein walks us through core value number two. Stay tuned for the next four! What are your core values? Let us know in the comments below!
We believe that the end is a reflection of the means. In order to achieve a more just food system and reduce inequality, all of our actions must uphold respect for the people and partners we are working with and the environments we are working in.
“Treat others how you want to be treated.”
The golden rule is one of those maxims that most people meet with reflexive support, but few use as a platform for deeper reflection. It inspires a vague notion of respect, which could play out at many different levels of interaction. Often, though, it is invoked with our classmates, coworkers, or family in mind. This makes sense; it may be easier to envision yourself in the shoes of someone similar to you. The last few years, however, have helped me recognize that an important element of respect is inclusion—to bring those who are marginalized or invisible into your conception of your community. A simple greeting to the homeless woman on the corner, or the custodial worker in your building, can demonstrate respect by acknowledging others as human beings.
This speaks to the fact that we should not just muster respect for those with whom we have formal interactions. In order to be congruent with FRN’s social justice oriented mission, we must examine our day-to-day interactions and promote a culture of compassion, understanding, and inclusion around us.
At FRN National, our commitment to respect manifests in formal and informal ways, through trusting the autonomy of the students we work with to carry out their programs using their best creativity and skill, through forming a repartee with the other individuals in our office complex, and yes, through acknowledging the work that goes into keeping our office space clean and each taking part accordingly.
Embodying respect at all levels of our work creates a more understanding, effective, and even happy community.
Over the next six weeks, we’ll post a series of blogs detailing FRN’s core values–six key components that motivate us and influence the work we do. New Chapter Coordinator James Souder kicks things off below. Stay tuned! What are your core values? Let us know in the comments below!
Wasting food is a big deal.
Consider all the resources that go into creating a meal. Think about the water used to irrigate the crops, the fertilizer and pesticides used to increase yield, the sweat poured into the planting and harvesting, the grains grown to feed cattle, the fossil fuels burned to transport and refrigerate food, the materials used for packaging and selling produce, the time spent shopping and preparing food… and the list goes on.
Now throw all those resources into the landfill. That’s right. Throw it all away. When we waste food, we waste valuable resources.
Let’s go one step further: After throwing away your food, turn around and look into the eyes of people in your local community who don’t have enough to eat.
At FRN, we empower individuals, communities and food businesses to change the way they view and handle food surplus. Our goal is to make sweeping systemic change across the food industry. Successfully generating this shift will mean significantly reducing hunger and greenhouse gas emissions at the same time.
Food recovery can and will replace food waste as the food industry norm, in large part because it is in the best interest of food businesses to participate. Cafeterias and restaurants that donate their excess to food rescue organizations reduce their waste removal cost and are eligible for tax breaks.
Recovering surplus food is a win for everyone! Start a Food Recovery Network chapter today.
At the end of September, the Member Support Fellows from FRN National used almost all forms of DC public transport (the bike share, the metro, and the MARC train) to trek to Baltimore for the Fighting Hunger in Maryland: From the Ground Up conference. Impassioned by our desire to quell hunger, we arrived an hour and a half early, bright eyed and bushy tailed (see Figure 1). The conference hosted workshops on policy, messaging, funding, and innovative solutions to tackle the issue of hunger. For our team, it helped reinforce our understanding of the broken state of the systems in place in the United States. Nationally, federal programs to fight hunger have eroded, and internationally the US has failed to adhere to basic commitments. At our very core, we believe access to food should be recognized as a human right.
The conference helped us locate Food Recovery Network’s mission to fight waste and hunger in the historical context of hunger in the United States. During the first workshop, the panelists argued that we should use a rights-based approach when discussing hunger in the US and working toward improved access to food. They explained how hunger and food insecurity have persisted in the US despite economic growth and have worsened through the recent recession.
Both the number of Americans experiencing food insecurity and the number of those receiving public benefits have increased due to greater economic inequality, lower wages, and unemployment. The past 40 years have seen an erosion of workers’ earnings and benefits, not because the economy has shrunk, but because the affluent have been the ones to make the gains. So, despite economic growth, earnings for many Americans have declined: the median income for a 25-year-old with a high school education has dropped one third since the 1970s.
The federal government has taken some steps to address wage losses, but the current amount offered to food insecure households through SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly known as “Food Stamps”) is only 75% of what the government has declared to be the cost of a healthy diet. The workshop panelists therefore argued that the US government is clearly not truly prioritizing the fight against hunger and it should do much more, especially if we consider access to food a basic human right.
Historically, the United States does not have a great track record when it comes to recognizing access to food as a human right. In 1966, President Carter signed the United Nations International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, which included the right to food, but the US Senate did not ratify it. This failure of our government to officially declare food a human right has continued: in 2008, the US voted against the Right to Food resolution at the United Nations. The resolution was simply a statement of principles and was not legally binding, yet the vote at the United Nations on this covenant was 180 to 1 — the US being the only nation to vote against it.
The panelists encouraged those of us who take the issue of hunger seriously to exert pressure on the US government to take a serious stance on eliminating hunger. We can do this by increasing the visibility of the issue of hunger in this country and working to increase access to food. Food Recovery Network has been doing this since its inception, and continues to empower students to bring awareness to the issue of hunger in this country.
We would also like to note that 66.6666% of FRN team members who attended this conference received prizes. (Can I get a WOOPWOOP! Who doesn’t love free tickets to a professional indoor soccer game?) Rule Number 1: Do good. Feel good. Get good prizes.
Written by FRN Member Support fellows Sarah Gross, Marlene Haggblade and Mika Weinstein.
Giving Tuesday is the global giving day, modeled after Black Friday and Cyber Monday. It is more than just a day, or a nice hashtag. It is a movement celebrating giving. Each year, the Tuesday after Thanksgiving there is a call for people all over the world to give back.
A #GivingTuesday #FRNdzy
Food Recovery Network is kicking off the season of giving even earlier, starting November 1st and culminating our campaign on December 2nd, Giving Tuesday. It’s Giving Tuesday with FRN flair: a #GivingTuesday #FRNdzy. We’re inviting our supporters and FRNds to give back this November.
Can you help us raise $10,000 during the #GivingTuesday #FRNdzy? That’s the equivalent of 10,000 meals that we can distribute to homeless shelters and soup kitchens across the country. By donating just $10 to FRN, you donate 10 meals to those in need across America.
“FRN has provided bread and produce items during a time when it was difficult to obtain them otherwise.”–Wayne Briggs, Director of Operations of Just Food, partner agency of FRN at University of Kansas
How can YOU give meals to those in need this Giving Tuesday?
- Donate!! $10 = 10 meals. Don’t want to wait? Donate today!
- Support your local FRN chapter! Look out for links to chapter #GivingTuesday #FRNdzy pages and more information for how to support their work.
- Create a Piggybackr page and share with your family and friends this November
- Simply go to https://www.piggybackr.com/org/frn and create a team page to fundraise for Food Recovery Network!
- Share this post and spread the word about #GivingTuesday #FRNdzy:
- Share a dare for our Executive Director, Ben Simon. Ben will be accepting a challenge on #GivingTuesday if we reach our fundraising goal! Simply tweet or comment on this post: “I dare Ben Simon to [insert your challenge here]” and be sure to use the #GivingTuesday #FRNDzy hashtags. Ben will announce the challenge he’s accepted on November 1st.
The issue and FRN’s work:
In 2013 – 49.1 million Americans lived in food insecure households, including 33.3million adults and 15.8 million children. At the same time food is the number one item in America’s waste stream. Americans wasted 36 million tons of food in 2011, 40% of the total amount produced for consumption. Since 2011, nearly 100 campuses have recovered over 450,000 pounds of food with FRN. That’s over 344,000 meals. By May 2015, we aim to be at 150 chapters and recover a total of 610,000 pounds. Give $10 this November to help us reach our goals!
For Immediate Release
August 12, 2014
For more information, contact:
Food Recovery Certified is coming to a restaurant near you
The first certification program of its kind – Recognizing businesses that divert safe, nutritious food to people in need rather than letting it go to waste
College Park, MD- A new certification program, Food Recovery Certified, launched this past April in an effort to encourage restaurants, grocery stores and other food businesses to recover healthy and nutritious surplus food to people in need. In the US, 40% of edible food goes to waste every year, while one in six Americans is food insecure. Food businesses that apply to be Food Recovery Certified receive a bright green window sticker to assure customers that they are looking out for their community, and not just their bottom line.
Forty-six food businesses across the United States are Food Recovery Certified thus far, with founding partners Bon Appétit Management Company and Sodexo leading the way.
“With 49 million people in the U.S. at risk of hunger and 16 million of them being children it is unimaginable that businesses and consumers alike casually waste as much food as they do, even in the face of hunger,” said Robert Stern, chair, Sodexo Foundation, a founding funder of Food Recovery Network. “Innovative programs like Food Recovery Certified offer great hope for raising awareness and the spurring action needed to address these grave statistics.”
Cara Mayo, Program Manager of Food Recovery Certified, leads the project along with Ben Simon, Founder and Executive Director of Food Recovery Network. They see Food Recovery Certified as a way to promote the practice of food recovery by giving visibility to the exemplary food recovery programs that are operating behind the scenes. They hope this visibility will dispel myths associated with liability. “American food businesses have been holding back,” Mayo explains, “We need these businesses to know that you can donate surplus food while upholding all safety guidelines and without the risk of liability.”
Partners Sodexo and Bon Appétit are doing their part to encourage the trend of food recovery through the visibility of their own programs.
“We believe there is no reason good food should go to waste when there are people in need in our community. We are proud to have food recovery programs at over 100 Bon Appétit cafés, and counting, and to be the first business to get Food Recovery Certified, which helps our guests see the human impact these donation programs have,” says Bon Appétit Waste Specialist, Claire Cummings. “We hope to make food recovery a standard waste management practice at all restaurants.”
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Food Recovery Certified rewards food businesses that are donating their unsold and surplus food to people in need. There are forty-six Food Recovery Certified businesses in the United States. Food Recovery Certified has partnered with Sodexo and Bon Appétit Management Company to kick start the Food Recovery Certified movement. To learn more about Food Recovery Certified and how you can get involved, visit www.foodrecoverycertified.org, www.facebook.com/FoodRecoveryCertified, and follow @FRCertified on Twitter.