Emily Vebrosky

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Undergraduate: Lycoming College 2014

Major: Chemistry

Minor: Environmental Science

Graduate & Doctoral:  Louisiana State University 2018

What’s she researching? Emily has been studying how sunlight impacts pesticide exposure in organisms such as crayfish.

Current Job: Louisiana State Research Associate

Favorite Food: Macaroni & cheese

FRN Experience: Emily joined the sustainability committee at Lycoming College as a freshman with her interest in the environment and studies. In 2013, she attended the Pennsylvania Environmental Resource Consortium (PERC) Conference where a student presented about FRN and was inspired to bring this to Lycoming College. PERC is an organization designed for higher education organizations in Pennsylvania to take action towards a sustainable future through conferences and resources.


Today, Lycoming College has recovered over 40,000 pounds of food. When reflecting on how far her chapter has come since 2014, she recalls that her first few recoveries were between 15 and 30 pounds of food. They also could only pick up and deliver the food, due to hesitation from dining. “We weren’t allowed to go into the kitchen or behind the counter.” It took a team effort and multiple conversations to build the trust required for a strong food recovery program. Emily and her teammates would stay until the dining hall closed and talk with the staff to connect with them on a more personal level. The chapter would write thank you cards and pitch in for a gift card to show their appreciation. Over time, those acts of kindness and investments in relationships added up. The FRN Lycoming Chapter is now entirely responsible for the food recovery — from packaging to delivering the food.

“No matter the size of the school or number of pounds recovered, every action matters.”


What is your favorite memory from FRN?

We (Lycoming FRN Chapter) would recover bread from a local market. One day in the summer, there were only three loaves of Italian bread. When I picked up the bread and took it to the American Rescue Workers food pantry, I told them that I was sorry that we only have a few loaves of bread today. They were still grateful and said thank you, but as I turned around to walk to my car, I can hear them cheering "We got the good bread today!"

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What is one piece of advice that you would give to CHIPs & FRN Chapters?

That having an advisor is key to keeping the chapter intact after your time; they can help with talking to other faculty members and leverage difficult situations. It is honorable to be part of a network where we want to action to change the food system, but it cannot be done alone.

Emily stays up to date with what her chapter is doing through social media. LSU, where she received her doctorate degree and is now working, also has an active FRN chapter. While she hasn’t had a chance to be involved directly, she encourages her student assistants and others on campus to be involved. Spreading the word about FRN is part of the solution  to reducing food waste. The more people that are educated on the topic and how to fix it the better.

What is she up to now?

Emily received her Ph.D. in Environmental Sciences in December 2018. She is currently preparing to move to North Carolina to continue her post doctoral research. In her spare time, she enjoys fishing with her fiancé,  going to the dog park with their german shorthaired pointer, Fenn. Emily also enjoys baking, riding her Peloton spin bicycle. When she has time to read anything other than science, it is books about the nonprofit sector and recycling. Emily recommends reading Begging for Change by Robert Egger, after hearing him speak at the 2014 Food Waste & Hunger Summit.

Fun Fact: After reading Begging for Change, she was not only inspired by the author, but also got the same heart tattoo on her middle finger as him.

When asked about the future of FRN and sustainability: Emily would like to see more reusable materials and for styrofoam to be completely eradicated from campuses. However, she thinks that FRN and the movement are headed in the right direction of reducing food waste and helping end hunger across the country. Emily said it best, “No matter the size of the school or number of pounds recovered, every action matters.”

To Connect Further with Emily:
LinkedIn:
https://www.linkedin.com/in/emily-vebrosky-ph-d-82437b94/
Email: emilyvebrosky@gmail.com




Petra Rack

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School: Texas Christian University ‘18

Major: Dietetics

Masters: Kinesiology

Job: KIND Snacks Ambassador and Graduate Assistant for the TCU Department of Kinesiology

FRN Experience: The senior class before her started the chapter as a service project with Dietetics Program which requires 2,000 hours of experience in order to take the exam. She interviewed for the Vice President position once the chapter was established and assisted in both chapter operations, food recovering and helping serve at their Partner Agency.

Favorite Food: Cherries or Sweet Potatoes

Reducing Food waste and hunger have always been a part of Petra’s values. From her father’s experience being in Austria during World War 2, surviving off scraps of food found, she was raised that wasting food was not an option. Even in high school, she remembers being with her mom at a Speedway gas station asking if they could donate the baked goods that repeatedly are tossed at 9PM on the dot to a local shelter. Petra joined FRN to help reduce food waste and for the opportunity to serve others. TCU’s Chapter not only recovers food from their campus and stadiums, but they also help serve and sit with the patrons of their partner agency. This has been something that was implemented since the founding, and an opportunity that is cherished from both sides.

Her TCU Honors project was also on food waste and recovery with a focus on restaurants and homeless shelters in the Fort Worth, Texas area. While not all the restaurants reported food waste as high priority at their establishment, 100%  agreed that food waste is a problem. Furthermore, when surveying homeless shelters in Fort Worth, 81% agreed that their shelters would benefit from excess food donations from restaurants.


“FRN FILLS THE GAP.”

Food Recovery Network was more than just something to put on a resume. From a class that required students to work in dining services, she witnessed food waste taking place at the football stadium. Not only did her chapter start recovering over 2,000 pounds of food from there, but they also began a partnership with Cowboy Composting.

Petra, is currently a graduate student at TCU studying Kinesiology so she can pursue a career in Sports Medicine. She is still in contact with her chapter, but spends her time studying, working, and serving as KIND Brand Ambassador. KIND’s mission of doing one kind thing to impact someone related to her personal values and her work with FRN.

“We (KIND) donate products consistently from charities, wellness companies to those in need. I’ve gotten a chance to meet people and impact their lives. Even if it is just giving someone a bar. We did one campaign where we would give two bars and tell people to keep one and make an impact in someone’s day with the other.”

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Petra has been hands-on in creating KIND’s nutritional educational platform for all ambassadors in the United States. With her background in dietetics, she emailed the CEO about her passion and educational background, which lead the way for the field work she is also doing now. The program details the nutritional value of the bars, to help colleagues answer questions they get about KIND products.


“Hard work is easier when you feel worthy of doing”

When asked what advice to give to those struggling with their chapter and food recovery, she replied that no action is too little. “The impact and difference you make has to start somewhere.”

A unique trait of the TCU FRN Chapter is that each semester they set a goal for their chapter to achieve. Some of the previous goals included partnering with another food donor or bringing a certain amount of new volunteers on board.

Looking into the future, she hopes that FRN can continue to impact many people, that it can spread beyond the student level, to university chancellors, sustainability office, to outside of higher education, to restaurants and businesses. Her advice is to open the conversation about food waste and food recovery. From Petra’s words and study, “by decreasing the 40% of food produced in America that is wasted each year, restaurants could feed the 49 million Americans who are food insecure.”

To connect with Petra further
Published TCU Study
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/Petra-Rack





Tom Straus

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Undergraduate School: Iowa State University ‘13

Major: Marketing

Minor: Psychology

Graduate School: University of Illinois, Chicago (UIC) ‘18

Masters Degree: Urban Planning & Policy - Environmental Policy & Economic Development Specializations

Job: Administrator for the Compost Club at The Urban Canopy

FRN Experience:

Tom joined as a member due to its alignment with his studies and interest. During his time at UIC, he was elected as vice president and then later president. Before graduating, he expanded their food donors to 30 restaurants in the Chicago French Market and the University hospital cafeteria. He also helped write a proposal to have UIC have a permanent intern position that assisted with recoveries.

One Piece of Advice you would give to CHIPs or OCs that are struggling?

Find partners. There are so many people out there who want to help however they can, sustainability departments, professors or even just an employee at a restaurant you want to work with. Each person can have a huge impact on recoveries.

Food Recovery is not only critical to helping people who are facing hunger, but also to mother nature and saving the planet. The production and transportation  of food takes massive amounts of water, land, and energy. Our food use contributes to greenhouse gas emissions, which impacts our air quality and global warming. Tom Straus, an alum from University of Illinois, Chicago, took efforts to further food recovery and protect the environment.

Tom has always had an interest in the outdoors and the environment. Call it a green thumb or maybe a green heart. From studying economic systems and food waste, he immediately saw the benefits of FRN —  feeding hungry people and reducing the amount of food waste. But Tom always thought his chapter, and he, himself, could do more. With his position as a manager at the Chicago French Market, he was able to increase his chapter’s food donors to 30 local businesses. He also wrote a proposal to the Office of Sustainability to have a permanent intern work with their chapter, ensuring that each year their chapter would have school support and was up and running season after season. But, alas, what if you could do more?

“Build a larger community around sustainability”

For all the food that goes to a person in need; what about the scraps and leftovers that cannot be rescued? Food that is still going into the trash is impacting the environment in a negative manner. How can we fix that?

Tom, as the Administrator for the Composting Club with The Urban Canopy, works to advocate and manage composting in the city of Chicago. For those of us who are unfamiliar, composting is compiling organic matter so that it can be repurposed as fertilizer in order to better the soil and reduce the amount of methane gas and water that is produced and used to breakdown garbage at a landfill.

“Very different from letting a pile rot in your yard!”

Many composting companies, like The Urban Canopy, provide bins for compostable materials and will even pick up your compost every week. They also distribute wheatgrass, kombucha, and weekly selections of seasonal produce, fresh eggs from local farms and baked goods. Tom is involved with the whole process, from helping pick-up the compost to running a compost benefit program to increase the amount of companies and individual households that compost.

The Urban Canopy is also looking to create and increase the existing CSA (community subsidized agriculture) systems in Chicago. Not only does composting help with the reduction of food waste, but with the prepaid boxes from the local farms it decreases the amount of food waste from the source! One of the benefits that Tom and his team created is that for every 10 compost pick-ups members receive a small gift card to one of the local companies that also compost! This gives recognition to businesses that might fall under the radar; the compost also goes back to the local farms that they are delivering the produce!

Tom also serves as a member on two boards, The Plant Chicago and Food Recovery Network’s Student Alumni Advisory Board (SAAB). Tom also holds a position with the auxiliary board at Plant Chicago, leading the Education Committee’s efforts with K-12  students, teaching them about sustainable food production, energy conservation, and material reuse. He helps schools get approved for field trips to the composting facility and plans demonstrations in the classroom. With SAAB, he is working on increasing FRN’s outreach to students and assisting the students with the partnerships they have with their dining providers.

“I would like to see more people doing it, cities more actively promoting  the separation of food waste from municipal trash. Combine with community gardens, to build a larger community around sustainability.”

To connect with Tom further

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/tom-straus-7a762750/

The Urban Canopy: www.theurbancanopy.org/
The Plant Chicago: https://plantchicago.org/


Shewa Shwani

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School: SUNY College of Environmental Science & Forestry ‘18

Major: Environmental Science

Minor: Food Studies

Job: Administrative Program Coordinator with Catholic Charities

FRN Experience: Started as a volunteer driving the recoveries to the partner agency and then became president, a position she held for 3 years.

Favorite Food: Pomegranates or Dolmas (stuffed grape leaves)

“Breaking Bread.” An expression commonly meaning to share a meal with someone dating back long before FRN was founded. Food and hunger are two things that can bring different cultures together. Shewa Shwani demonstrates how being a part of FRN and recovery can bring people together. From educating peers about her experience as a Muslim woman in the United States to leading a movement against food waste and hunger in her community, she has always been involved in volunteer work to help those in need. Whether it be in a soup kitchen, working with refugees and tutoring those who need help with their English, helping people is her passion. In her role at Catholic Charities and through volunteer work with We Rise Above the Streets, she continues to incorporate food recovery and service into her everyday life, making an impact in her community.

“Some of the best conversations and communities are built over food.”

Food recovery and service build connections between communities that do not always have the opportunity to cross roads or find common round. For example, her chapter helped unite Syracuse University, a private institution, with State University of New York Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY ESF), a public one. She received the Unsung Hero Award as a recognition of her work in 2016.

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She also spoke at FRN’s national conference National Food Recovery Dialogue (NFRD). At NFRD we ask our FRNds to submit their personal stories from the front lines of food recovery, in a segment called This Recovered Life. Shewa was selected to talk about how she brought communities together. Shewa states, “I went from not caring about the environment to caring about the environment so much. I went through the journey of bettering myself as a person and to help other people better themselves.” Her presence and stories touched those around the country who have had the pleasure of hearing her speak or working with her. Those friendships and connections have stayed strong even after graduation

In her work now, Shewa lifts up those from homelessness and she helps homeless shelters find resources that they need. Now that she is out of school she is getting more involved with We Rise Above the Streets, a local Syracuse nonprofit that works to alleviate hunger and homelessness. Shewa is interested in working with them to coordinate events. We Rise Above the Streets founding goal was to feed the homeless in Syracuse, NY. They started as a small group of volunteers making peanut butter sandwiches on Saturday’s underneath a bridge, now it has grown into a sizable operation that provides clothing and hygienic toiletries for the homelessness.

“Food is a right and a basic human need and not everyone has access to that.”

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When Shewa was at SUNY, she ensured that one out of five recoveries would be donated to We Rise Above the Streets. Last summer after graduation she also helped organize the first cookout fundraiser event for We Rise Above the Streets. We’re excited to see what Shewa’s next impact on her community will be.

Catherine (Katie) Crombetz

School: Madonna University ‘17

Major: Biochemistry & Piano Performance

FRN Experience: Founder & President of the Madonna Food Recovery Network Chapter 2015-2016, Executive Chair of the FRN Student & Alumni Advisory Board 2017-present

What was your favorite memory from experiences with FRN?
One of my favorite memories is a simple phone call I received from my contact at our partner agency (PA) within the first month of beginning our recoveries. Myself and a few students recovered from our school dining services on a Friday afternoon as usual and delivered the food to the PA right away. Our PA was always so grateful no matter what we showed up with each week, but this week in particular my contact called me the day after the recovery to further express his thanks for our new partnership.

“Once people knew that they could recover food  to help the community, it wasn’t just the students who did not want to see the food go into the trash

One piece of advice you would give to Chapters in Process (CHIPs) or Official Chapters (OCs) that are struggling?
Don’t give up! Even if things are progressing slowly, continue to recover when you can, even if you have limited volunteers continue to advocate for food recovery in your school and community, even if it just means a conversation with a student in the hallway between classes. Your impact is important whether it is small or large!

Can you give a brief description of what the Student Alumni Advisory Board (SAAB) is for those who don’t know what exactly it is?
SAAB is a group of students and alumni, who are interested in sharing their own experiences and knowledge with FRN National, chapters and chapters in progress. We want to be an educational resource and to create additional opportunities for the movement.

How would you like the network to utilize the Student Alumni Advisory Board?
I would love to see SAAB grow to be a unique bridge between the students and FRN National as a way to increase communication and collaboration. I’m hoping students turn to us for advice, resources, and idea generation! This board is composed of incredibly passionate people from across the country who have diverse experiences with FRN recoveries and chapter practices.

“When you think about all the extra things we do in our daily routines; taking the extra step to recover or donate food becomes small.”

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Do you still participate in any food recovery/feeding the hungry activities now?
I recently started volunteering with a street medicine program that distributes food, among other necessities like clothing and medical supplies, to those who need it in Detroit. The food is not currently recovered but now that I have this connection I’m hoping to work on finding ways to provide recovered food to this team and others that are servicing those in need out on the streets!


“My hope is for food recovery to not only spread to each college campus,

but for the practice to be norm for all businesses.”

Did you know?

  • Katie and her family members know how to unicycle

  • She still has a voicemail from one of her hunger fighting partner agencies sharing his gratitude from one of the recoveries saved on her phone that she listens to when she needs a little inspiration of the good in the world

Connect with Katie Further:

Facebook: Katie Crombez
Twitter: @KatieCrombez
Instagram: ktcrombez
LinkedIn: Catherine Crombez