It started with a problem.
A few years ago, students at the University of Maryland – College Park noticed a problem that is common at colleges across the country: huge amounts of leftover food from campus dining halls and sports events were being thrown away. At the same time, 1 in 8 people in the D.C. were struggling with hunger. Furthermore, food from the UMD dining halls was sitting in landfills, contributing to global warming.
Then the Students Got Involved
In 2011, three students from different campus organizations came together to form the Food Recovery Network (FRN) at Maryland. They put together a team, got student groups to volunteer one night a week, and worked with Dining Services to start recovering leftover food.
In the first weeks, students were recovering 150-200 pounds of food a day. Every night of the week, a different student group on campus would spend an hour recovering food from the dining halls and donating it to shelters in the D.C. area. By the time the 2011-2012 year was over, the group had donated 30,000 meals to D.C.-area shelters.
Why Only Here? Why Not Everywhere?
Ben Simon and Mia Zavalij, two of the Founders of the UMD program, began to wonder about food recovery at other schools.
- Why doesn’t every college in America recover food?
- How much good food is going to waste each year from college campuses?
They did some research and found that approximately 75% of college campuses do not have a food recovery program in place. That adds up to 22 million meals that could be recovered and given to those in need. So FRN decided to think big.
In January of 2012, students from four colleges came together to create the Food Recovery Network, with a mission of creating food recovery programs on every college campus in the country. First, students at Brown University formed the second chapter of FRN, which successfully recovered 6,000 pounds of food in its first semester. That same month, FRN joined forces with two existing food recovery programs, Bare Abundance at the University of California, Berkeley and Food Rescue at Pomona College.
Then the Work Began
A National Leadership Team of 7 students from these four schools began to meet to discuss expansion. We started reaching out to students at other schools who were interested in starting food recovery programs on their campuses, and we developed materials to guide students through the process.
The results were immediate. By November of 2011, students at four schools (RISD, Providence College, UT-Austin, and Harvey Mudd/Claremont McKenna/Scripps) have started food recovery programs and joined the network, and more are on the way.
Which Brings Us to Now
FRN has had a successful first year.
- Students at our nineteen member organizations have recovered 135,000 meals.
- FRN won the $5,000 grand prize in UMD’s Kevin Bacon Do Good Challenge and the $15,000 national grand prize in the Banking on Youth Competition, sponsored by Ashoka’s Youth Venture.
But we’re not going to stop there. We’re excited to see what the future holds, and we plan to keep working until there is zero food waste on our nation’s college campuses.