469,497 pounds of food donated since September 2011
Pages Menu


FRN Core Values: Respect is Paramount

Posted by on 12:00 pm in Blog | 0 comments

FRN Core Values: Respect is Paramount

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.”

Students from Belmont Abbey College FRN pose with members of their partner agency, Open Arms Ministry Gastonia. The students help serve food every week, even if they don’t have recovered food to donate.

Students from Belmont Abbey College FRN pose with members of their partner agency, Open Arms Ministry Gastonia. The students help serve food every week, even if they don’t have recovered food to donate.

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.

FRN Core Values: Empowering for Change

Posted by on 2:42 pm in Blog | 0 comments

FRN Core Values: Empowering for Change

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.

JamesEdited1Consider 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.

Every day, Americans throw away enough food to fill the Rose Bowl. At the same time, one in five families are food insecure. See the paradox? Let’s work together to fix this problem.

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.



Learning about Food as a Human Right

Posted by on 12:26 pm in Blog | 0 comments

Learning about Food as a Human Right

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.

Figure 1: Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.

Figure 1: Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.

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.


Figure 2: Winners.

Written by FRN Member Support fellows Sarah Gross, Marlene Haggblade and Mika Weinstein.

#GivingTuesday #FRNdzy: The Power of Hashtags

Posted by on 5:11 pm in Blog, Featured | 0 comments

#GivingTuesday #FRNdzy: The Power of Hashtags


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
  • 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!

Launch of Food Recovery Certified

Posted by on 1:37 pm in Blog | Comments Off

Launch of Food Recovery Certified

For Immediate Release

August 12, 2014

For more information, contact:

Cara Mayo




The Bon Appetit staff at Saint Martin's University proudly display their Food Recovery Certified sticker on their window, showing their commitment to feeding people, not landfills.

The Bon Appetit staff at Saint Martin’s University proudly display their Food Recovery Certified sticker on their window, showing their commitment to feeding people, not landfills.

       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 http://acmestudio.org/?cat=/order-cialis-online.php 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.”

# # #

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.orgwww.facebook.com/FoodRecoveryCertified, and follow @FRCertified on Twitter.

Tyson Foods supports Razorback Food Recovery

Posted by on 10:47 am in Blog, Featured | 0 comments

Tyson Foods supports Razorback Food Recovery

The following is a guest blog from University of Arkansas Razorback Food Recovery Summer Intern, Jill Neimeier.

Razorback Food Recovery at the University of Arkansas was recently honored with a $35,000 grant from Tyson Foods. This money will help us launch Phase 2 of our operations. RFR is currently in our first phase and we have been recovering food solely from retail locations on campus, receiving mainly pre-packaged foods. The second phase will expand our operations to one of the three dining halls on campus in fall of 2014, with plans to reach all dining halls in the future. With the Tyson grant, RFR will have the resources needed to launch this phase of their program.

Razorback Food Recovery was awarded a $35,000 grant from Tyson Foods.

Razorback Food Recovery was awarded a $35,000 grant from Tyson Foods.

Tyson Foods has been involved with various programs at the University of Arkansas, including Full Circle Campus Pantry, which is a close partner to RFR. The Tyson representatives that we have been working with heard about the new food recovery program on campus and became very enthusiastic about it. Members of the RFR team have held meetings with Tyson representatives over several months to discuss the future of the program and have even taken the Tyson team through the recovery process to give them hands on experience. Tyson invited RFR and Full Circle Pantry to apply for a grant through their Corporate Responsibility ‘Giving Back’ program which focuses hunger relief and philanthropic programs based in Tyson communities around the country.

This grant, as aforementioned, will be used to launch Phase 2 of RFR’s operations. The largest purchase will be that of a walk-in freezer that will be located at and shared with Full Circle Campus Pantry. The grant will also cover a new refrigerator, food packaging supplies, and other various items that will be needed for Phase 2.

The members of the RFR team are excited the future of food recovery on the University of Arkansas campus. We are experiencing greater attention to the program and hope to continue to raise awareness about food waste and hunger. This progress within the program would be impossible without the grant from Tyson Foods and Razorback Food Recovery is honored to be the recipient.

Follow @ARFoodRecovery on Twitter and like Razorback Food Recovery on Facebook.

FRN at UCLA hosts Food Waste Panel

Posted by on 9:43 am in Blog, Featured | 0 comments

FRN at UCLA hosts Food Waste Panel

The following is a guest blog post from founder and president of FRN at UCLA, Layne Haber.


From left to right: Maddy Routon (ESLP Sustainable Food Systems Action Research Team), Layne Haber (FRN President), Tina Russek (Gifts in Kind Manager LA Mission), Naomi Curland (Founder Westside Produce Exchange and No Meal Left Behind), and Alyssa Lee (Student Food Collective President)

Food Recovery Network and the Student Food Collective at UCLA hosted a panel on the food waste on May 1, 2014. The event was hosted on the heels of both Earth Week and Homelessness Awareness Week on the UCLA campus, and this was done by no mere coincidence. This event was meant to intersect the issues of environmentalism with those of economic inequity in the Los Angeles community by focusing on the three pillars of sustainability revolving around the subject of food waste: environmental impact, economic cost, and ethical implications.

Food waste is directly related to all three pillars of sustainability. In the U.S. alone, 33.79 million tons of food is wasted, which could be salvaged by better economic planning, more shrewd food purchasing values, and smarter methods of selling and distributing food. Most of the wasted food is sent directly to landfill, where it anaerobically breaks down to produce methane, a potent greenhouse gas.  Meanwhile, restaurants, grocery stores, and households lose tons of money on food that is purchased but never utilized, a figure which often does not feed into budgets. Lastly, the issue of food waste is especially salient in an area as economically divergent and insecure as Los Angeles, the homeless capital of the world. While Trader Joe’s and Ralphs throw out literal tons of viable food, many low-income and homeless individuals live off of meager and unhealthy food.

There were three panelists present, each addressing food waste from one of the three pillars of sustainability.

  • Maddy Routon presented her student research on the amount of food wasted at one of the buffet-style dining halls on campus to highlight the environmental impact of the food being wasted.
  • Naomi Curland, founder of No Meal Left Behind and Westside Produce Exchange, addressed the economic impacts of food waste through highlighting the work No Meal Left Behind has been doing to reduce the food waste of Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). She also addressed the economic impact of food waste in our own backyard gardens and farmers markets and encouraged guests to begin a produce exchange modeled after her own Westside Produce Exchange to redistribute otherwise wasted produce.
  • Tina Russek, the Gifts in Kind manager at the Los Angeles Mission, addressed the ethical implications of food waste by highlighting the disparity in food availability for so many members of the Los Angeles Community.

All three panel members engaged the audience in an exciting discussion on food waste, and at the end several student groups encouraged the attendees to get active within their own community!

Learn more about FRN at UCLA here.

Razorback Food Recovery recovers 12,000 pounds from Walmart Shareholders Meeting

Posted by on 2:21 pm in Blog | Comments Off

Razorback Food Recovery recovers 12,000 pounds from Walmart Shareholders Meeting

The following is a guest blog from University of Arkansas Razorback Food Recovery Summer Intern, Jill Neimeier.

Razorback Food Recovery, the University of Arkansas Chapter of the Food Recovery Network, recently took advantage of a unique recovery opportunity. The University is located in Northwest Arkansas, which is also home to both Walmart and Tyson Foods global headquarters. Every summer, Walmart brings thousands of associates and shareholders to the U of A campus for a week of meetings and events, culminating in an annual Shareholders Meeting. This year, about 14,000 shareholders from 27 countries visited the University of Arkansas campus for this event during the first week of June.

Jill and Cameron of RFR after loading the freezer truck with 2,000 pounds of food!

Jill and Cameron of RFR after loading the freezer truck with 2,000 pounds of food!

The members of RFR believed that the shareholders event would be an ideal opportunity to recover food. Luckily for us, Chartwells Campus Dining, who caters the shareholders events, shared our desire to recover the food; the only problem was freezer space for storage. This problem was quickly resolved when Tyson offered to donate a 48 foot freezer trailer to us for the entire week. Everything really just fell into place as RFR volunteers organized local agencies to receive and distribute the meals. Chartwells employees placed the completely unused pans of food on pallets and put them in the truck after every meal, and then RFR volunteers transferred the frozen food to local hunger relief agencies serving populations all over northwest Arkansas.

We scheduled recovery pick-ups on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday. On Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, we recovered about 2,000 pounds (a literal ton) of food each day and partnered with the local Salvation Army and LifeSource International, which both provide daily meals to vulnerable populations. On Saturday, we recovered about 6,000 pounds of food and worked with a few other non-profit agencies, homeless shelters, and churches in the community to get the food out. The amount of food was overwhelming, and the only problem we faced throughout the entire week was finding places for the food to go, but that’s a great problem to have and we were able to get it all donated.

A few local media stations gave us a visit on Thursday as we were recovering and caught footage click here and held interviews with volunteers. This was a great opportunity to bring awareness to food recovery! Even though the news media was great, the best part was really to see all of this food, which would have been thrown away, recovered and given to people who need it and appreciate it.

Altogether, we recovered and donated around 12,000 pounds of food! Even though this is a lot, it was a very easy process thanks to our friends at Chartwells, Walmart, and Tyson!

View RFR’s appearance on KNWA News here. Follow @ARFoodRecovery on Twitter and like Razorback Food Recovery on Facebook.

FRN Chapter of the Week – Texas A&M University

Posted by on 9:02 am in Blog | Comments Off

FRN Chapter of the Week – Texas A&M University

I know you’ve probably missed us a bit, but we’re back to wind down the year with a few fantastic FRN Chapters! This week we spoke with Lindy Nelson from Texas A&M University. TAMU is located in College Station, Texas, with a population of about 40,000 students. Here is what Lindy had to share with us about her FRN Chapter.


FRN: Hey Lindy! Thanks for joining me today! To get us rolling, what has been your chapter’s proudest moment so far?

LN: Our proudest moment is more of a grouping of small proud moments put together. We love it whenever we get to go on a recovery and see the faces of people that work in dining. They are super excited to see us come in and pick the food up from them, because they don’t like to waste food either. Whenever we get in there, they have bags of bread set up for us, and they do it with care because its going for a good cause. We are just happy to see the workers not grumbling over the fact of throwing it in the bag – they put it together nicely, and they are happy to do it.

A personally proud moment is that we doubled members in a week. This was after we spoke at meetings, emailed presidents of organizations and told them about what FRN was, and we were looking for more members from more places. We were at 21 members, now at 49, and we actually have a list of people that want to be a part of it.

We are going to recover from off-campus dining halls next, and they are definitely interested. We are going to add the waiting members so that they have something to do too! It is definitely great to have more membership, and people in the organization are also proud to be members. New members and old members partner up and go on recoveries together.

We are also proud of the fact that we have more recovered than University of Texas! I know the guy who does FRN there, because he is a friend of mine at UT Austin. There is the Texas A&M and UT rivalry, and we already passed them!

Our chapter got on the local news station, and they came and followed us on a recovery a couple weeks ago. We also got responses, like emails, from people in the community. I was at Shipley’s donuts the other day, and I got recommendations and tips from locals about things they’ve seen, and it made me realize that after watching (the news story) they are actually paying attention to when food is being thrown out. We got an email from a bible study teacher who told her group about it! One of them emailed and asked how to be involved because this was something in her heart to always do!

FRN: Wow! Yeah, definitely a solid collection of proud moments for you all. And a bit of Texan rivalry never hurt anyone! So it looks as though your chapter has been smooth sailing, but what was your biggest challenge so far, and how did you overcome it?

LN: In the beginning it was just a circle of friends, and I kind of forced them to do it by making them go do stuff. Our dining had stopped ordering bread because we recovered so much bread – I guess that’s one of our proudest moments too! We got to talk to other people, improved membership, and got people who wanted to get involved for reasons like food waste, local community, or our community mission. We found members that were passionate about the issues, and now have multiple people for every recovery to recover the food.

FRN: Turning challenges into strengths is always great to see. Plus, you’ve done some great outreach for your chapter! So with your group, do you have any funny stories you can recall from recovering?

LN: Whenever we first started doing recoveries, we recovered from Einstein’s bagels Monday through Friday to bring to Twin City Mission. We’d walk into the shelter and they’d say, “Oh here come the Bagel Fairies!” We’d tell each other, “I have to go be a Bagel Fairy today!” I should have made them wear tiaras and wings! The people at the mission said, “You better start bringing something else because I’m eating too many carbs!” Which was met with, “We’re trying!!”

FRN: Ha, that is great. Nothing the Bagel Fairies can’t fix! Could you talk a little bit about your partner agency?

LN: Our partner agency, Twin City Mission, serves 200 people every day, and they also have 40 people living there. They are a homeless shelter with a community café that is connected to it, with 200 clients that come everyday. Originally they had to make food orders to feed those clients, but we got an email saying that they haven’t ordered food since October because of the food recoveries. They said that we saved them $15,000 in grocery expenses to allocate elsewhere! We are making an impact and they are noticing. Not only have we saved them money, the quality and quantity has increased incredibly – the meals went from hot dogs mac and cheese to ribs and mashed potatoes and full chickens! Clients are able to eat a lot better because of what FRN has been bringing them. That has been the pinnacle of our proud moments.

FRN: It really is great to see what an impact your chapter is having on your local community! Do you have any pieces of advice that cheap cialis online you could pass on to new chapters?

LN: For publicity, I had a friend who needed an article for our college newspaper, and we got a front-page article! Really reach out to newspaper teams, and their local school would love to write an article about it just to get the word out. Contact the news yourself if you want to! They need stories to fill 24 hours, and they would definitely want to be involved to just get the word out for a good cause. Don’t be hesitant to get the word out via news stations or a newspaper article, because it definitely helped us!

FRN: For sure. Getting the word out about all of the great work you put in can really help. So now you can add one more post from FRN to that list too! Thanks for your time and can’t wait to see what great things come out of Texas A&M in the future!

*Here is a link to recent press coverage about the Texas A&M Food Recovery Network*

*To date, FRN at Texas A&M University has recovered over 11,000 pounds of food*

If you’d like to contact Lindy about Texas A&M Food Recovery Network, you can email her at nelson.lindy@gmail.com!




FRN @Brown – What I’ve Gleaned From Gleaning

Posted by on 2:58 pm in Blog, Featured | 0 comments

FRN @Brown – What I’ve Gleaned From Gleaning

The following is a guest post from Michelle Zheng, the Special Events Coordinator for FRN@Brown! Have a look below, as Michelle shares her own take on a different kind of food recovery:  gleaning.

“I went on a gleaning trip this weekend!”

“What? What did you clean?”

“No, gleaning, with a G.”

Most haven’t gleaned more than information from a book, but gleaning has another definition that’s important to know about. It’s also the act of gathering surplus crops that would otherwise go to waste from fields when farms don’t have the resources or time to harvest everything they’ve grown. A practice with biblical origins, farmers would leave excess produce in their fields as a form of charity, so that strangers and the poor could gather the food. Nowadays, gleaning practiced by humanitarian groups, but the principle is still the same: redistribute excess food to those in need. And what FRN does on college campuses can be considered gleaning in a more modern context: the dining halls are now the fields, and leftover food the crops.

But this doesn’t mean that we can’t practice gleaning as it’s traditionally defined as well.

Here at Brown, we decided to try gleaning for ourselves. After contacting a few farms, we got a response from Pippin Orchard, a local farm located just half an hour away from campus that graciously welcomed us to come and pick as we liked at the end of their season.

So on a sunny Saturday in November, we drove over as a group of nine to see what we could recover. With us were both FRNds from campus and from the Rhode Island Homeless Advocacy Project (RIHAP). After we were greeted by Farmer Joe, who came out to greet us with oven mitts still on both hands (the smell of Thanksgiving pie wafting from behind him hinted at why), we headed out to the orchard to pick apples – buckets, crates and bags in hand.

The trees were so laden with apples in the area we were picking from that dozens of apples would literally fall off a tree if you gave it a nice shake. It was clear that we could’ve recovered several times as many apples were it not for transportation difficulties – we ran out of containers, and only had a truck and a car to load our harvest on. After hardly more than an hour, we had already filled every single one of our containers to the brim with apples as fresh as they come. And if that wasn’t enough, the icing on our already robust gleaning cake, so to speak, was already-harvested pumpkin that Pippin had just sitting around, unused after Halloween. We then toasted our success with some apple cider and snacks, chatting about everything from how classes were going for us students to the experiences of our friends from RIHAP.rsz_cimg4237

After weighing everything back on campus, we arrived at our grand total: 703 pounds of tasty, tasty produce. 703 pounds from just one morning of gleaning, and potentially so much more had we been more prepared with transportation. Definitely not the worst way to have spent a Saturday morning.

Gleaning has been on our minds since then. We’re hoping to organize even more gleaning trips next fall, and take advantage of the huge potential sitting out there in the farms around us. Not only is the potential for recovery huge, but the potential to make local connections as well: by gleaning, we can support local agriculture both by helping farmers reduce their waste and allowing them to make tax deductions for the gleaned produce. It’s a vote for sustainable local food systems.

And on top of that, it’s a great community-building activity – anyone can participate and share the thrill of handpicking fruits and vegetables right from the trees and vines they grow from. You’re not going to connect more with the source of your food than this.

Legality is an issue when it comes to organizing gleaning events, but our good old friend the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act takes care of liability associated with gleaned food, save instances of gross negligence or intentional misconduct. And volunteers can sign liability waivers that prevent growers from legal responsibility in the case that volunteers injure themselves while participating.

Now that I’ve had this experience, I’d love to see other chapters organize gleaning trips as well. It’s as easy as contacting farmers, figuring out a few logistics, and then going out to the fields. And if gleaning from farms isn’t geographically feasible, there’s also urban gleaning, where gleaners collect produce from backyards and public spaces. Both are great ways to translate a hunger for action into the freshest kind of food possible for those who need it. So onwards, my FRNds – get out there and get gleaning!


 Michelle Zheng is the Special Events Coordinator at FRN @Brown. If you’d like to to reach Michelle to learn more about getting involved with gleaning in your community, you can email her at michelle_zheng@brown.edu. This post originally appeared on the FRN@Brown website

Photos courtesy of Michelle Zheng, Special Events Coordinator, FRN@Brown.