Alumni Spotlight: Rebecca Leighton, University of Minnesota Twin Cities '16

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Our December Alumni Spotlight is Rebecca Leighton, a 2017 graduate of the University of Minnesota at Twin Cities. In her third year as an undergraduate, where she studied Dietetics and Nutrition, Rebecca founded her school’s Food Recovery Network chapter. Though she was “met with a lot of resistance initially”  her “experience leading this initiative taught [her] to persevere in order to do something [she] believed in.” We’re thrilled to feature Rebecca in the Alumni Spotlight because the passion she fostered during her time with FRN has led her to amazing places where she continues that original mission - to fight waste and feed people.

Rebecca’s favorite FRN memory is of her very first recovery, where she and her team of about fifteen students recovered 32 pounds of food. Her FRN team has come a long way since then - they now recover at least one hundred pounds at each recovery. She says, “It was amazing to see such quick growth in something that I had worked so hard at starting.” The ability to persevere, learn from her mistakes, and keep going despite obstacles after founding and leading a successful FRN chapter, she says, is what gave her the confidence to follow her dreams of creating a food pantry, called Nutritious U, on campus after graduation. Today, she runs that program while also working toward her master’s degree in public health and nutrition.

As tuition rates climb and students find themselves choosing between textbooks and food, more food pantries are being established on college and university campuses across the country. As the director of Nutritious U, Rebecca has a number of responsibilities. She orders thousands of pounds of food each month, organizes the shelves, staffs the pantry, reaches out to food insecure students, and coordinates a leadership team of 10 students and additional volunteers.  In the near future, Rebecca is hoping to set up a streamlined process with University of Minnesota Twin Cities FRN Chapter, so recovered food from the dining hall can be delivered to Nutritious U. Rebecca also coordinates the meal donation program Swipe Out Hunger on her campus and teaches students about health and well-being, such as cooking classes.

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To current FRN students, Rebecca says, “Stay strong, keep persisting, and keep growing.  Never let anyone tell you that you can't do what you are passionate about.” You never know where the hard work of establishing a chapter could lead you; as in Rebecca’s case, it could be in a master’s program, directing a food pantry, and transforming hundreds if not thousands of lives with healthy, warm meals.

Thanks for everything you do, Rebecca!

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? Contact Sarah Diamond, Alumni Programs VISTA, at


Alumni Spotlight: Kelsey Rogers, Roger Williams University '17

Food Recovery Network is working to build its first-ever alumni network to offer resources and connection opportunities to FRN alumni hoping to stay engaged in food recovery efforts beyond graduation. As part of this, we will be showcasing an exceptional FRN alumnus each month who exemplifies leadership, teamwork, and community engagement in our Alumni Spotlight series.

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Our first featured alumnus is Kelsey Rogers, a 2017 graduate of Roger Williams University in Bristol, Rhode Island. Kelsey founded the RWU FRN chapter in April 2014, and recalls her favorite FRN memory as bonding with her team as they drove to shelters to deliver food during the team’s early days as a Chapter In Progress (CHIP). She says, “It was nights like these that I can look back on fondly and see just how far I’ve come.” Since then, RWU FRN has recovered more than 21,000 pounds of food and has fostered countless meaningful relationships on the campus and beyond. As the chapter president, Kelsey worked to expand her chapter’s capacity through attending a series of food waste events. During these events, she connected with like-minded individuals with whom she would start Phood, a food waste tracking company.

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Phood is a commercial food waste prevention company that works with more than twenty institutions nationwide to reduce waste, find donation solutions, and engage communities in food recovery. Kelsey is the Food Recovery Specialist at Phood, where she develops software to make food recovery easier for clients. She also serves as the lead graphic designer, designing the look of their different tablet platforms, making marketing materials and designing the Phood website. Check out Kelsey’s graphic design page for more information here.

“Through FRN,” she says, “I was able to realize my passion for fighting food waste and hunger. Since then, my passion has guided every decision I make. FRN has given me the confidence to pursue my dream job, and the leadership experience to get there.”

Congratulations and thank you, Kelsey, for all you have done to fight waste and feed people in college and beyond!

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? Contact Sarah Diamond, Alumni Programs VISTA, at


FRN Students Don’t Only Move Out of Dorms, They Move Out For Hunger

Students often throw out a lot of things when they move out of their residence halls at the end of the school year – including perfectly good food. While rushing to catch a train, bus, or plane home after an exam, the last thing on a student’s mind is saving still good cans of tuna fish, bags of beans, or packs of Ramen noodles from going into a landfill.

Move Out Day at Goucher College

Move Out Day at Goucher College

This is where Food Recovery Network (FRN) and Move For Hunger (MFH) come in. The two organizations knew this issue was preventable through collaboration, and so created an end-of-year event called Move Out Day, where student volunteers collect food that would have otherwise gone straight into a dumpster while also raising campus awareness on food waste and hunger.

In Spring 2017, FRN and MFH co-hosted Move Out Days with FRN chapters on five participating college campuses: Brandeis University (Waltham, MA), George Washington University (Washington, D.C.), Goucher College (Baltimore, MD), Monmouth University (West Long Branch, NJ), and Southern Connecticut State University (New Haven, CT). College students saw first-hand the amount of food that could be saved from the landfill. Each chapter was paired with a local moving company to deliver the collected food to a local food bank or pantry. Thanks to the incredible work and passion of the students, truck drivers, sponsors and FRN and MFH staff, a combined total of 5,059 pounds of food was recovered and delivered to those who need it most.

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Thank you to the event sponsors, Doorsteps, Atlas Van Lines, and Clif Bar, for all helping make the event a spectacular success. Thank you to Upworthy for documenting the event and telling its story.

2017 was the inaugural year of Move Out Day, and FRN and MFH couldn’t be more thrilled to expand on this incredible momentum to make the event even bigger and more impactful in Spring 2018. Next semester, participation will quadruple, and about 20 chapters across the country will have the opportunity to coordinate a Move Out Day. If you are an FRN chapter that is interested in participating this year, please fill out the form here. If you are a company that is interested in getting involved and learning more about how you can sponsor the event, please email us at

Sara Merken, George Washington University Chapter Founder and Former Chapter President, spearheaded Move Out Day on GW’s campus. Read below to learn about Sara’s experience and to join us in our excitement in planning for our Second Annual Move Out Day in 2018:

Move Out Day at George Washington University

Move Out Day at George Washington University

Our chapter was new to GW’s campus the prior fall, and we had spent the prior few months attempting to get the Food Recovery Network name out there. Although many of the students who came by the Move Out For Hunger event tables had never heard of FRN (yet!), the intrigue and necessity for many students to get rid of their excess peanut butter, pasta, canned foods, and oatmeal packets before moving out of their dorm rooms allowed us to educate passersby about our cause and ask them to come back with the food that would have otherwise been thrown away.

The months of preparation and excitement could not even have predicted the success of the event. The day started off somewhat slow, and the only students passing by our stand were scurrying to the library to study for finals. As the day went on, however, the event began advertising itself. We were situated in Kogan Plaza, a main area at GW that gets a lot of foot traffic, and the bright green signs, miles-high piles of moving boxes, variety of Clif bars and stacks of t-shirts attracted many interested and unaware but curious students.  

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Congratulations to all five schools that successfully put together such an exciting and necessary donation event! We collectively received thousands of pounds of nonperishable food along the east coast and should all be incredibly proud of our accomplishments.  A big thank you to Food Recovery Network, Move For Hunger, and each of the other sponsors for allowing our chapter to make a difference on GW’s campus and in the greater DMV area! An additional thank you to the staff members from Food Recovery Network who helped us out on the day of the event, and to my wonderful executive board for putting on such a memorable day!

Do You Believe In (NFRD) Magic?

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Dear FRNds,

Thanks to of all of you who attended, Food Recovery Network’s second annual National Food Recovery Dialogue (NFRD) was a success. Each and every one of you who contributed an idea, shared a question, offered a suggestion, met a new FRNd, jotted down a “brain blast” for others to read, and absorbed knowledge made the conference what it was, creating an energy that pulsed through the rooms of the University of D.C. The weekend would not have been the same without you. You brought the magic.

At the National Office, we’ve been talking about “NFRD Magic” since the first NFRD in April 2016. Unanimously, we had a desire to bring that magic into the planning of our second annual dialogue, so we asked ourselves: what is that magic and where does it come from? How do we ensure this year’s participants feel the same magic that was felt last year? We had to think beyond the countless meetings, months of planning and the boxes of conference swag lining our office hallway. We imagined sitting in a room, surrounded by hundreds of people passionate about and committed to the same mission. We envisioned chapters in progress conversing with chapters who are four, five, six years old. We anticipated discussions in breakouts going something like this: “Our chapter struggles with volunteer organizing, how can we make it better?” and the answer of “At our chapter, we do this…” being one of many suggestions given as support. The advice, the best practices, the tips and tricks. It’s all magic.

At NFRD, we saw this magic come to life. We saw strangers become friends, mentees become inspired, and the FRN mission manifest itself in the hearts of leaders from all across the country.

While you spend your days focused on your community, your home, your people, there are thousands of people across the country focusing on their communities, their homes, their people. This was the weekend when we came together, looked one another in the eye and said “I care, too.”

That’s the NFRD magic.

Now what will you do with it? How will you carry it with you? If you ever feel weary or burned out, look in your heart and remember the way it felt to be surrounded by FRNds who care just as much as you. Then remember that they’re out there across the country, in the next city over, or maybe right next door, focusing on the same things you are and fighting the same fight you are. Remember that they’re there to help their fellow FRNd.

We’re so thankful to share in this movement with all of you.


Regina and hc


PS: Stay tuned as we update our website with photos, blog posts and more NFRD magic.


Kirsty Hessing at the NYC Food Tank Summit: Fighting Food Loss and Food Waste

Food Recovery Network partnered with Food Tank during its NYC Summit: Preventing Food Loss and Food Waste to engage FRN chapters across the country. There were six official watch parties hosted by FRN chapters, and even one in Kenya! FRN chapter leader and Student and Alumni Advisory Board member Kirsty Hessing is a fellow for Food Tank and was able to attend the summit first-hand. Read below to learn about Kirsty’s experience:

SAAB Member, Kirsty Hessing

SAAB Member, Kirsty Hessing

As the Wagner College Food Recovery Network chapter founding President and Student and Alumni Advisory Board (SAAB) member, my interest in food waste and sustainability issues has allowed me the opportunity to speak at and attend many different conferences and summits, mostly in the company of other college-aged peers. Over the past few weeks, I spent time as a fellow for Food Tank where, as a college student, I was more so the minority. Food Tank mostly engages with professional-level leaders in the food waste and sustainability spheres.

Many of those who attended the Food Tank Summit on September 13, 2017, the first ever in New York City, were professors, entrepreneurs, chefs, press, and other interested people. I only met one other college student during the entire summit. Conversations at the summit centered around education at a young age, the introduction of new technologies and highlighting the work of innovative non-profit organizations in the field. I found myself so proud of the work FRN is doing. Multiple times throughout the conference, FRN was mentioned as a success in reducing food waste. It was wonderful to see both those familiar and new to FRN be so impressed with all the work we have done. Many didn’t realize the bridge that college campuses have between education and student initiative. Attendees and at-home viewers were inspired by the passion college students had in starting this movement themselves.

Former US Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vislack discussing food waste.

Former US Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vislack discussing food waste.

The summit was set up similarly to how a TED talk looks like to the online viewer. The event space was small and made you feel as though you were part of the important conversations. Having a live stream with so many moving parts really added a cool dynamic to the whole event. At-home viewers were also emphasized throughout the day, highlighting their social media posts and responding to questions submitted online. Danielle Nierenberg, Food Tank President, directly engaged at-home viewers by speaking to them directly.

My responsibilities as part of the summit included setting up and preparing volunteers the night before. Day of, I worked with the same group of volunteers as a liaison to the Food Tank directors. Many volunteers were chefs or had worked with Food Tank before. Many volunteered because they wanted to see this event first hand. I also worked with Great Performances, the catering team, to make sure they had all they needed throughout the day. My last responsibility was overseeing the compost and recycling bins with the help of Common Ground Compost. Composting, although different from food recovery, is, of course, another critical part of reducing food waste.Their team was so diligent and kind in their work throughout the day and taught me so much about what to do with specific kinds of waste. For example – did you know that because of the plastic lining inside them, Starbucks cups are not recyclable? I was surprised to learn this and is certainly information I will share with others back at Wagner College.

I encourage all FRN members, students, and alumni to follow Food Tank closely and watch their summits online when possible. Make sure to pay attention when Food Tank comes to a city near you; they always need volunteers and sometimes even fellows! The actual event is known to sell out within hours and have a waiting list of well over 1,000 people. However, being a volunteer is a great way to get into the event and share in everything in person. Even on the day of the event, I had the chance to network with many of the speakers and attendees. FRN’s work is a huge part of successfully fighting food waste and I encourage all of you to share our mission with as many people possible.