Alumni Spotlight: Diana Myers, Georgia State University '17

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Diana Myers has been passionate about food waste, nutrition, and helping others since she was young. Like a number of other FRN leaders, Diana didn’t settle until she knew she was making a difference. After three years at Georgia College and State University in Milledgeville, Georgia, Diana decided she needed more time to figure out what she was meant to do. Diana spent a few months traveling in Southeast Asia, after which she returned to Georgia, where she finished her bachelor’s degree in the Didactic Program in Dietetics at Georgia State University in 2017.  

Through getting to know some upperclassmen nutrition students, Diana became involved with Panther Food Recovery Network (PFRN) at GSU through getting to know some upperclassmen nutrition students, where she served as the Partner Agency Coordinator, allowing her to connect directly with people the chapter was serving. She saw the extraordinary need in her community firsthand and acknowledged how FRN could be a part in filling that need. Motivated by her experience in this role, Diana became Co-President and Volunteer Coordinator of the chapter. With a team of six other students alongside her, Diana dove in “119” (that’s her lucky number) percent to make sure things went smoothly. The food recovery program was so successful that the team was awarded a $17,000 grant from the Georgia State University Office of Sustainability, to purchase freezers, marketing materials, pans, and other supplies.

One of Diana’s favorite memories with FRN happened while having a conversation with an employee of SafeHouse Outreach, one of PFRN’s partner agencies. He raved about how PFRN had increased the organization’s ability to serve nutritious food. Instead of serving frozen pancakes and spaghetti to its patrons, SafeHouse Outreach was able to provide roasted vegetables, baked chicken, clam chowder, wild rice and more. The employee noted that these new options helped their guests feel comfortable while going through a tough time in their lives. “They were so appreciative and it made my heart grow in infinite ways,” Diana recalled. “This is the feeling that I want to continue having through the work that I do.”

After this experience and more like it, Diana knew she wanted to keep working to fight food waste and hunger after she graduated. She received her bachelor’s degree in May 2017 and began pursuing a master’s degree in nutrition at Georgia State University.  The program requires students to rotate between community, clinical, management, and enrichment settings. In her Food Service Management rotation with Marietta City Schools, Diana worked with a team to develop and assess best practices of share tables within its school system. Share tables allow students to choose which food they want to eat on their plate, rather than throwing away unwanted food. As a soon-to-be dietitian, Diana recognizes that food waste also wastes nutrients that could help someone be healthier and happier.

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“We can really drive [waste reduction],” Diana said, “and teach about solutions that get nutritious food into areas that need them.” A self-titled “food waste nerd,” Diana says it was her experience with PFRN that formed her love for this work and shaped the career path she chose.

To current FRN students, Diana has some advice: “It's all about building relationships, showing appreciation to the people who help you, and staying strong in your beliefs. Know that you are making an impact as part of a nationwide movement. Educating our fellow peers is critical. Just one conversation could change the way that people cook, purchase their food, and give back to their community. Then, if those people talk to their friends, the awareness grows; we can make a huge difference from one conversation!”

Thank you for all you’ve done to fight waste and feed people, Diana!

Are you an FRN alumnus? If so, we want to stay in touch! Fill out the Alumni Survey on our website here. You just might be featured in our upcoming spotlight series!

Have questions/comments about our growing alumni network? Want to nominate an alumnus for doing great work? Contact Sarah Diamond, Alumni Programs VISTA, at alumni@foodrecoverynetwork.org.

NYC Event Fights Food Waste

What happens to the leftover food after a large catered event? Some of it might get sent home with event staff, some might get composted. Most of it, however, ends up in the garbage and is destined for a landfill. A great deal of hard work, careful consideration, money, and resources go into coordinating the preparation, transportation, and presentation of catered food; it is a shame for it to be dumped into the trash and go uneaten.  Implementing a food recovery plan at an event saves money, reduces negative environmental impacts, and helps the community.

NationSwell, a social media impact company, wanted to ensure they did the right thing with their surplus food after their 2017 Fall Summit, an annual event where media innovators and influencers gather to inspire change in the coming year. The company’s mission is “focusing America on solutions, not just problems.” That mission guides their work in the social media sector, and they proved to be just as solution-oriented when planning their event. NationSwell worked with us at Food Recovery Network (FRN) to plan a recovery and get their Fall Summit Food Recovery Verified.

Our team helped NationSwell establish a food recovery plan and coordinate logistics to have the food picked up and delivered to a nonprofit who could redistribute the food. First, we identified all of the food items that could be recovered. Then, we talked through techniques for sending out food in phases rather than all at once and replenishing serving dishes to optimize the amount of food that could be salvaged. We recruited students from the New York University (NYU) FRN chapter, Two Birds One Stone, to pick up the food after the event. Lastly, we coordinated with NationSwell and the NYU volunteers to determine the best time for recovery and confirm that the volunteers had access to the event to collect the food donations.

  Lanie, NYU student, wheeling extra food from NationSwell Fall Summit for donation to The Bowery Mission.  

Lanie, NYU student, wheeling extra food from NationSwell Fall Summit for donation to The Bowery Mission.  

When the students arrived, the food had been already cooled down to the proper temperature, 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below,  and the event staff had packaged the food in pans for transportation. Our FRN student leaders delivered 215 pounds of surplus food to The Bowery Mission in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. That translates to 179 meals going to people in need rather than going to a landfill. Founded in 1879, the Bowery Mission helps people rebuild their lives and get out of  “cycles of poverty, hopelessness, and dependencies of many kinds.” Last year they were able to provide 505,000 meals to those in need. This recovery was a small, yet significant contribution to the larger efforts of the Bowery Mission.

FRN provided NationSwell with the tools and resources to plan and execute a recovery. With our help, they were able to support the local community by providing the edible surplus to a venerable NYC nonprofit. Putting a recovery plan in place is a simple solution to ensure surplus food from catered events goes towards alleviating hunger rather than negatively impacting the environment. We look forward to working with NationSwell again in the future to support their events through our program Food Recovery Verified. If you are interested in working with FRN to recover food from your next event, apply here: https://www.foodrecoverynetwork.org/frv-apply-events

U.S. PIRG's Zero Hunger Campaign Aims to End Food Insecurity

Throughout my years as an undergraduate at the College of William & Mary, I was devoted to activism. I joined the executive board of the NAACP in my first semester of college and later became a leader in Black Lives Matter Williamsburg. I loved working with both of these organizations and dedicated much of my time to them. I worked with organizers to create a better and more supportive campus environment for all students of color. Despite logistical dilemmas, struggles to get adequate funding, and difficulty in choosing precisely what kind of events we should put on, the biggest challenge by far involved none of the above. The biggest challenge to me was myself.

I constantly struggled with my internal thoughts about how to create lasting change. I felt that activism on campus often turned into an annual to-do list of the same tactics, showing few signs of making a change in our community. Of course, it was important to hold educational events, which was the norm, and great to have annual, recognizable events for consistency and higher visibility. But somewhere in the process, we became too fixated on the tactics rather than the goal. Where was the acknowledgment of the systemic nature of the issues we were trying to solve? Where were the lasting solutions that could make lives better?

There is absolutely no reason anyone should go hungry when we produce plenty of food for everyone. This is why I want to fight for zero hunger.

We had a Campus Kitchen’s chapter on campus, and I volunteered there once, just before Thanksgiving. I was not particularly aware of food insecurity in my community at the time (however, I did notice the immense amount of food waste in our dining halls). Volunteering that one day was eye-opening. I saw just how many families received full Thanksgiving meals from recovered food and how much food was recovered. The only reason why I never went back was that I thought perhaps this was only a band-aid solution and perhaps the work of the NAACP and BLM could find a systemic way to combat the issue of hunger in a world of abundance.

Now I am an organizer with U.S. PIRG. As the Zero Hunger Campaign Associate, I advocate for a systemic solution to hunger.

 
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Our Zero Hunger campaign focuses on ending hunger by getting the abundant food we have to the people who can use it. Getting food to people who need it goes hand-in-hand with cutting food waste. We are calling on college and universities across the nation to commit to a goal of zero hunger. We want to show that this is an achievable goal; through solutions such as food rescue, meal swipe donation programs, food pantries, community gardens, and more, we can end hunger.

There is absolutely no reason anyone should go hungry when we produce plenty of food for everyone. This is why I want to fight for zero hunger, and why I return to organizations like the Food Recovery Network and Campus Kitchens. They are dedicated to food rescue, but also to redirecting the resources we have that would otherwise we wasted to those in need.

With Zero Hunger, I hope that together, we can create a movement nationally that will fight hunger with the guiding principle that we do not have to make more to have enough. We have enough for everyone, we just have to make better use of our resources. We have wasted our food and resources for too long; now we must stop wasting our time. Let’s fight for Zero Hunger.

To learn more about this campaign and how to join our national movement to end hunger, please contact Damiana Dendy at ddendy@pirg.org. All interest and questions are welcome!

6 takeaways from The 2018 D.C. Food Tank Summit

On Feb. 28, several members of the FRN National team attended the Food Tank Summit in Washington, D.C. Our team at FRN, the largest student movement against food waste and hunger in the nation, felt particularly drawn to the summit’s theme: “Cultivating the Next Generation of Young Food Leaders.”

In addition, FRN’s Executive Director, Regina Northouse, was invited to speak at the summit on a panel titled, “Advocating for Future Farmers and Eaters.” Northouse said that one thing everyone can do to support farmers is to stop wasting the food they work so hard to produce. "What Food Recovery Network is trying to do is trying to ensure that the food that we do grow in this country doesn't go to waste," Northouse said. "Currently 10 million tons of food that our amazing farmers are growing is either left on the vine, tilled underground – just doesn't get to the people who need it most." 

After the event concluded, the FRN chapter at George Washington University recovered 140 pounds of surplus food from the summit and donated it to an on-campus food pantry, making it a Food Recovery Verified event. If you want to verify your next event, apply here or learn more by emailing foodrecoveryverified@foodrecoverynetwork.org. 

Our team had an incredible time learning from and speaking with the food industry professionals at Food Tank. Below are some of our thoughts and takeaways from the summit. 

 

1. we need creative solutions to improve our food system 

"It’s not every day you get to sit in a room among political figures, business owners, local farmers, and other key players in the food system. Food Tank excels at bringing people together for meaningful conversation, and I thoroughly enjoyed attending the D.C. summit. Kathleen Merrigan, Executive Director of Sustainability at George Washington University, moderated the first panel: “Growing Farmers Around the Globe,” and asked the panelists: “If you had a magic wand, how would you use it?” Each woman shared a different idea — while focusing on realistic, tangible solutions — like building infrastructure so farmers can get their crops to market or creating equitable access to resources for people of color. This is a group of problem solvers, and they’re working to share their skills with those trailblazing new paths."

– hc, Program Manager

2. young farmers and activists are the future

"I greatly appreciated the summit’s emphasis on cultivating the next generation of leaders and more specifically, the Young Farmer Spotlight. Each presenter’s dedication to farming reminded the audience that this is not just a profession, but a lifestyle. Furthermore, it’s the origin of our food, and these young leaders represent the future of that movement. Their stories motivated me to learn more about the farming industry and develop a relationship between the food I eat and where it comes from."

      – Paul Sherman, Program and Resource Development Fellow

"I particularly appreciated hearing from the keynote speaker, Haile Thomas, who is the founder and CEO of The Happy Organization. Her story really demonstrated the value of including young people in the conversations surrounding food and showcased the amazing change they will go on to create."    

   – Sam Yates, Research & Outreach VISTA

3. We need to make farming a sustainable career path

"Kathleen Merrigan, Executive Director of Sustainability at George Washington University, discussed successes over the past decade in starting conversations about food systems and the sustainability of agriculture. But her main point was that, despite elevating the issue, there has yet to be tangible, positive change. Her goal is to work towards creating long-term, sustainable careers in agriculture." 

 – Paloma Sisneros-Lobato, Food Recovery Verified VISTA

4. food justice is personal 

"I was really struck by the story of Violet King, an urban farmer with Dreaming Out Loud in Washington, D.C. “I got involved in the food system because I know what it’s like to be a mother and have children and to have limited access to healthy food,” King said. Through urban gardening and low-cost CSAs, she has been able to improve access to high quality fruits and vegetables for her food insecure neighbors. King’s deeply personal knowledge of the food system and fierce advocacy for the folks in her community is incredibly inspiring."

     - Hayley Brundige, Communications and Partner Engagement Fellow

5. food can be political...and politicians can be farmers, too

"It was interesting to hear a conversation about agriculture and food policy between a Democrat from the East Coast, Representative Chellie Pingree (D-ME), and a Republican from the West Coast, Representative Dan Newhouse (R-WA). As the moderator, Helena Bottemiller Evich from POLITICO, pointed out, not many people realize that some members of Congress are farmers themselves. While Rep. Pingree agreed that many issues related to food and agriculture can attain broad bipartisan agreement in Congress, “nutrition is where we really kind of get in disagreement, and it tends to be about SNAP...and these things get very volatile and controversial.” Notably, she mentioned the Trump Administration’s idea of sending SNAP recipients “harvest boxes” as being particularly 'problematic.'"

     – Hayley Brundige, Communications and Partner Engagement Fellow

6. food businesses can make an impact  

"The afternoon 'Fireside Chat' featuring founders of companies like Honest Tea, MOM’s Organic Market, and Sir Kensington’s, was very interesting because of how it differed from other chats and panels. It sparked thoughts about the many ways food businesses can impact the food system. Some businesses support local farmers by only utilizing those local ingredients in their products, while others encourage organic farming practices by supplying only organic foods in their stores. Food businesses can even donate surplus food to a local non-profit to divert food waste from landfills and ensure that the resources that went into producing such food is used and not lost.

"These businesses can even gain recognition for implementing some of these practices. Food Recovery Network's program, Food Recovery Verified, provides recognition for businesses who do such work. It is programs like these that will continue to support the evolution of best practices for all food businesses."

           – Paloma Sisneros-Lobato, Food Recovery Verified VISTA

 

Our team had an incredible experience at the Washington, D.C. Food Tank Summit. To learn more about how you can attend or host a watch party for the two upcoming Food Tank summits in Seattle and Boston, visit our page.

“Love of FRNds” Event Brings Together FRN Community

Food Recovery Network’s “Love of FRNds” holiday party was a great way for me to see the passion of the FRN team in action. As a new intern, it was confirmation that I want to join the FRN team in spreading its message - one that is dedicated to limiting food waste and reducing food insecurity.

Seeing the 85 FRN staff members and guests present at the offices of Sidley Austin LLP in downtown D.C. on Feb. 8 was inspiring. It was obvious that everyone at the event was present for a shared purpose, a sentiment expressed by Michael Boyd, communications and development fellow and holiday party co-planner. Research and Outreach VISTA Sam Yates also organized the event, which included selecting student speakers and decorating the modern space. The goal of the party, according to the FRN team, was to showcase FRN’s vital role in the food recovery movement and to thank those who assist the nonprofit in fighting waste and feeding people.

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Light refreshments and hors d'oeuvres were donated by the law firm and neatly arranged on white linen tablecloths, available for guests’ enjoyment. Participants had the opportunity to mingle and partake in a silent auction, which offered items ranging from dinner with Executive Director Regina Northouse to artwork, yoga classes, and museum tickets. “FRNds” were also encouraged to purchase FRN swag, such as T-shirts, sweatshirts, baseball caps, pins, and tote-bags, to support the organization.

The money raised from the event — a whopping total of $2,400 — is going to be used to support FRN’s 235 chapters in 44 states and Washington, D.C.

“We treat every dollar that comes to our office like it’s five dollars,” said Northouse of FRN’s creativity and resourcefulness. From my experience at FRN thus far, I can definitely confirm that that’s true.

About midway through the event, guests gathered — some standing, due to the large turnout — to hear Bill McConagha of FRN’s National Board of Directors, Northouse, and FRN student leaders Annika Vaerst, Manuela Romero, and Ogechi Onwuemenyi speak.

McConagha, who is a partner in the Sidley Austin LLP Food and Drug Practice and joined FRN’s national Board of Directors in September, praised students’ “incredible work” and for “effectuating their vision[s]” into reality.

Vaerst, University of Maryland’s chapter president, told the crowd how UMD hit their 200 thousandth pound of food recovered last fall. UMD, which was founded in 2012 as FRN’s first chapter, remains one of the network’s top recoverers, according to the senior chemical engineering major.

“We are not about complacency,” Vaerst said. “At FRN, we are never finished because we always know there’s more to do.”

Romero, George Washington University’s FRN chapter president, explained how her team had to adapt to GW’s dining-hall-free campus by facilitating recoveries after campus events.

“Event organizers order tons and tons of extra food because they don’t want anyone to leave the event hungry,” the junior biology major said, adding that much food would go to waste at GW if not for FRN.

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Onwuemenyi, a senior English and Philosophy double major and soon-to-be president of FRN’s new Howard University chapter, expressed how he “spent a great deal of time and effort” this past fall working with the Howard administration to implement FRN on his campus.

Northouse, who has been working for the nonprofit for almost three years, concluded the presentation with a toast.

“There are so many incredible people in this room that I’m really blown away,” Northouse said, smiling.

She thanked FRN staff and affiliates, including Sidley Austin LLP for hosting, the Sodexo Stop Hunger Foundation, Hungry Harvest, The Campus Kitchens Project, and D.C. Central Kitchen.

“I am just blessed every day to work with really cool people,” Northouse said of the FRN National team. “That doesn’t even do justice to how awesome this crew is.” She urged members of the audience to donate money to support FRN.

“Truly, when you support FRN that’s what you’re supporting,” Northouse said. “You’re supporting people getting fed today, tomorrow, and the next day.”

As Lark Lewis, a friend of Boyd who attended the event, said, FRN is all about “fighting the good fight.” Perhaps that is because most in the organization feel there is always more to do — a sentiment Vaerst expressed in her speech.

“At FRN, we are never finished,” Vaerst said. “We never take success as finished.”

 
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As I sit here in FRN’s College Park headquarters, it’s dark outside, yet the office is bustling with productivity. Keys are clicking, conversation is happening. Meetings are happening, emails are sending. My view: a green painted map with post-it notes marking FRN chapters across the country. There’s almost more paper than paint; almost more color than green. Yet, something tells me that the nonprofit will still continue to plan.