FRN Student Leader Attends 2018 U.S. EPA Food Recovery Summit

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Sometimes you have to forget about the bottom line and do what is right.

I attended the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Food Recovery Summit at Centurylink Field on June 7. Yes, I took my shoes off and wiggled my toes on the astro turf. No, I did not meet any of the players. (Centurylink Field is the home field for the Seattle Seahawks of the National Football League and Seattle Sounders FC of Major League Soccer.) I did, however, meet some of Washington’s biggest players in the fight against food waste. I had the opportunity to pick the brains of representatives from major restaurant management companies and large-scale food bank directors. We learned about all of the green thinking that goes into running a large-scale business. The presentations discussed how businesses keep profit margins up while also having the human power to glean and compost. Sometimes, doing the right thing just has to come before profits.

I was invited to this summit through my current AmeriCorps site supervisor. I am finishing up my AmeriCorps term as a Food Security and Nutrition Program Coordinator at Hunger Intervention Program (HIP), an organization striving to provide food security for all. I work to provide weekend food packs to children facing food insecurity. We distribute roughly 280 food packs a week, and each pack contains six meals to help when school food is not available. I also work to develop Food Justice workshops that discuss the impact of food waste on hunger. I was very excited to take a seat in audience of this EPA discussion and learn more about front line efforts against food waste.  

Did you know that 40% of food in the U.S. is tossed into the trash while one in eight Americans goes hungry? Those statistics are what inspired me to join FRN, but I was surprised to learn that approximately 10% of food purchased by restaurants is thrown away prior to being plated. I was even more surprised to learn that only three percent of food in landfills is being composted while food waste is one of the leading causes of greenhouse gases. While the public is becoming more aware of the issue of food waste, food is still being produced and wasted at an alarming scale. Panelists at the summit shared current tools they use to track their food waste. For example, an organization called LeanPath Food Waste Solutions aims to curb food waste through helping restaurants see how much food is being wasted in real time. This allows kitchen staff to step in and make a change when they see that their food waste percentages are increasing.

Centurylink Field has some food waste prevention methods of their own. Fresh produce that is stored in walk-in refrigerators is protected from spoilage through use of carbon filters. These carbon filters reduce ethylene gas in the cooler and allow for a longer shelf life. Another method they use is to filter fryer oil more frequently. Frequent filtering allows for a 66% reduction in oil waste. To further prevent waste, chefs and kitchen staff create recipes from scratch and make small batches of food throughout the day. Finally, all food scraps are composted and the staff is in the early planning stages of using anaerobic digesters for on-site composting. Through these efforts, this stadium that feeds more than 69,000 people is able to be 96% waste-free.   

Another inspiring presentation was made by Jay Payne, General Manager at Bon Appétit Management Company, who discussed Bon Appétit’s partnership with Food Recovery Network. I was so proud to be part of FRN’s Alumni Network when he bragged about the Food Recovery Verified program. Bon Appétit has set a goal to have 80% of its locations Food Recovery Verified. Jay’s presentation reminded me of when my campus became Food Recovery Verified in 2016, and I am excited for Bon Appétit’s commitment towards reducing its food waste.

Gatherings like the EPA Food Recovery Summit are so important. They show that our efforts matter. We are making a difference. This summit inspired me to discuss the usage of carbon filters in HIP’s produce storage and how this method could help extend the shelf life of food for our community members. If we continue these conversations, more organizations will be aware of the steps they can take to end food waste. I encourage FRN chapters to seek out opportunities for discussion with EPA members and other large-scale food manufacturing companies. We need to get more restaurant management companies engaged in the discussion around food waste prevention ask them to do what is right.

FRN Student Leaders Honored for their Leadership and Public Service

We think our FRNds are pretty great, and their communities seem to agree. Congratulations to these seven FRN chapters and student leaders for receiving awards!

If your chapter or a representative of your chapter received recognition for your work this school year and is not listed, please let us know by emailing us at programs@foodrecoverynetwork.org. Here are some of the awards FRN chapters won this semester: 

1. chloe dyer, ohio wesleyan university2018 Charles J. Ping Student Service Award; Legacy Award mini-grant

“I started the Food Recovery Network to address a community need, but in taking the initiative to start a chapter, I also gained confidence. I now know that I can make a difference in another person’s life. Most importantly, as I graduate from Ohio Wesleyan, I leave with the conviction that I have the ability to affect meaningful change in my community.”
— Chloe Dyer, Founder of FRN at Ohio Wesleyan University
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  Left to right: Elizabeth Paraley, Addison Davari, Lillian McEntire, Victoria Marcelle, Leah Evans

Left to right: Elizabeth Paraley, Addison Davari, Lillian McEntire, Victoria Marcelle, Leah Evans

  Left to right: (back row)   Baseer Quraishi, Ruth Suh,   (middle row)   Roya Karim, Nishita Koottiyanil, Pooja Naik, Heba Hoelscher, Dina Achi, (front row) Nisha Sabapathy, Zeel Vora, Jameil Dowding

Left to right: (back row) Baseer Quraishi, Ruth Suh, (middle row) Roya Karim, Nishita Koottiyanil, Pooja Naik, Heba Hoelscher, Dina Achi, (front row) Nisha Sabapathy, Zeel Vora, Jameil Dowding

  Left to right: Sadie Addis, Sarah Lackey, Brielle Jacobowitz, Abby Gustafson, Meredith Lockard, Cameron Warren

Left to right: Sadie Addis, Sarah Lackey, Brielle Jacobowitz, Abby Gustafson, Meredith Lockard, Cameron Warren

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  Left to right: Christina Fong, Julissa Tobias, Justina Chock

Left to right: Christina Fong, Julissa Tobias, Justina Chock

National Movement, Local Organizing: Highlights from the 2018 FRN Regional Summits

Food Recovery Network is a people-powered movement. From the volunteers who glean from the historic orange groves at California State University-Northridge, to the “soup cuppers” at Cabrini University, our FRNds are changing their communities. Over the last six weeks, members of the FRN National Team and I had the opportunity to travel across the country and meet FRN student leaders at the nine Regional Summits in Tampa, Fla.; Nashville, Tenn.; Los Angeles; Houston; San Diego; Baltimore; Biddeford, Maine; Philadelphia; and Minneapolis. The ten Regional Outreach Coordinators worked tirelessly to coordinate action-oriented, engaging, and empowering regional gatherings.

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Each summit was unique and reflective of the diverse community members who gathered together. Some summits catered to folks who were new to the network and looking to learn more about FRN and food recovery basics. Other summits featured roundtables for official chapters to discuss the programs they’ve refined over the last four years. Community members from various sectors shared their professional experience, like Barbara Heitman Bronstein, founder of Second Servings of Houston, a community food rescue organization. Bronstein explained how volunteers wearing branded vests helped boost the organization’s reputation in the community, leading to more partners and volunteers. Patrick Walsh, Pantry Manager at Martha’s Choice Marketplace in Norristown, Pa., shared a list of 10 things students could do to support their partner agencies; first and foremost: listen to their needs. Partner agencies’ needs vary greatly. The attendees at the summit in Tampa, Fla. spent a few hours completing various farm upkeep work at the Sustainable Living Project, a community garden and education center. In Baltimore, the attendees prepared chili and cornbread at Sarah’s Hope, a shelter serving homeless families.

Attendees at every summit had something from their food recovery journey to contribute to the conversation. Some chapters’ full leadership team was present; others were only able to send one representative to gather as much information and report back to the team. There were supportive staff advisors, graduating seniors passing the baton, and first-year students preparing to tackle the challenge of leading a chapter. Take Colin, Iowa State University ‘19, for example. He drove three hours to attend the FRN Summit in Minneapolis because he’s already thinking about the sustainability of the chapter. Colin wants to ensure the next team is as prepared as possible after he graduates. Alicia Magallanes, Basic Needs Coordinator at UC San Diego’s Student Affairs Case Management Services office, has spent her time as a staff advisor advocating for increased fund delegation to the FRN Chapter. She encouraged students to recognize who has access to school money and who can serve as your ally in those conversations. These are just two of the many wonderful FRNds I had the pleasure of meeting.

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When I’m in the FRN National office, I’m usually interacting with students and answering their questions through email or on the phone. At the summits, I had the chance to look student leaders in the eye and recognize “we are in this fight against food waste and hunger together.”

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This Network is comprised of chapters that are conducting food recoveries simultaneously, whether they're across town from each other or on opposite coasts of the country. We are feeding our communities together, yet we rarely get a chance to gather together, see our neighbors, and reflect on the power of this movement. As much as the summits were about community, they were also about sharing best practices. “Don’t reinvent the wheel, use the work of your peers” was a theme throughout conversations. Notes were scrawled on tables covered in paper, emails were shared, Facebook friend requests were sent – all in the name of learning from one another. The FRN National team is committed to developing the tools and resources that will allow our students to continue to connect and share ideas.

Robert Egger of LA. Kitchen reminded those of us at the LA Summit that “it’s never easy when you challenge the norm.” As we continue to show the United States what the largest student movement against food waste and hunger looks like, we are recognizing the power of our peers and taking every opportunity we can to learn from them. We’ll be FRNds forever.

Recovered Food Donations From Sodexo at Trinity Medical Center Make Nonprofit Expansion Possible

At Urban Mission Ministries (UMM), receiving food donations made organizational expansion a reality. On April 17, 2018, Sodexo at Trinity Medical Center, located in Steubenville, Ohio, became Food Recovery Verified. All of the prepared food Trinity donates goes to UMM, a  faith-based organization that provides food, shelter, and other essential services to low-income residents of the Ohio Valley.

About six years ago, UMM started picking up frozen prepared food donations from Trinity Medical Center. They continue to pick up donations every Thursday and reheat and repurpose the food for their weekly hot meal service from the Unity Kitchen. As time has gone on, the consistency of donations has allowed UMM to expand their operations to serve and support thousands of people throughout the community.

On January 1, 2018, UMM took over the City Rescue Mission homeless shelter which houses anywhere from 25 to 30 people at any given time. In order to feed additional people, UMM originally planned to hire a weekend cook. However, they realized they could channel the recovered foods donated from Trinity Medical Center for these weekend meals.

Now, UMM is able to feed those staying in the shelter over the weekends exclusively using donated foods that are reheated and repurposed. “This was a perfect match,” said Rick Patterson, UMM warehouse director. “Trinity was sending [the food] in a way that was perfect for us to use [for our meal service at the shelter].”

In 2017, Trinity Medical Center donated 5,192 pounds of food to UMM from their East and West campuses. UMM has been able to streamline their processes by directing donations into specific freezers based on where the food will be utilized. “The program [with Trinity] was set up very well and has run seamlessly since our partnership started,” Patterson said.

Reliable donations from Trinity Medical Center prove that food recovery can be standardized. These consistent donations are instrumental to UMM being able to serve hot, healthy meals to those in their shelter throughout the year.

Food Recovery Network is proud to verify that Trinity Medical Center is donating its surplus food to Urban Mission Ministries.

Trinity Medical Center’s recovery program and verified status were highlighted in a local news segment. Check it out here: http://wtov9.com/news/local/trinity-health-system-is-food-recovery-verified

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.