Haulback to Give Back: How Chefs to End Hunger is fighting hunger in California

In California, Chefs to End Hunger is making a massive difference in the fight to reduce food waste and combat hunger. As the Food Recovery Verified (FRV) VISTA, I know of the thousands of pounds recovered by FRV businesses who work with Chefs to End Hunger. FRV is a program of Food Recovery Network that helps food businesses all across the country form partnerships with hunger-fighting nonprofits in their communities. Chefs to End Hunger is one of many nonprofits that FRV works with to recover and donate food in California. According to Feeding America, the food insecurity rate in California is 11.7%. The hard work of both FRV businesses and Chefs to End Hunger is putting a dent in this food insecurity rate.  

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Chefs to End Hunger uses a unique, yet simple system to fight food insecurity in their communities. They have incredible success with food recovery in the communities they serve thanks to the assistance of LA & SF Specialty (LAS), the company that founded Chefs to End Hunger. LAS is a food service distributor that delivers perishable foods to businesses in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and the surrounding areas. Chefs to End Hunger’s remarkable haulback system benefits from the structure that LAS already has in place. Every business that orders perishable foods from LAS has the option to also order Chefs to End Hunger boxes, containing three aluminum pans to store surplus food. The kitchen staff at the business fill these hunger kits with surplus prepared food. The hunger kits are then taken by the LAS delivery driver the next day and delivered to a local hunger-fighting nonprofit. This is a perfect model for efficiency! LAS has integrated Chefs to End Hunger into their entire business without having to make major changes to their deliver routes.

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Chefs to End Hunger’s brilliant food recovery system has enabled them to flourish and supply millions of meals to the food insecure people of California. Their work has been a boost to other organizations as well. Nonprofits in the Los Angeles and San Francisco areas such as Midnight Mission and Hope 4 the Heart serve the food delivered by Chefs to End Hunger. In 2018 alone, they recovered more than 3.2 million pounds of food, which is equivalent to 2.6 million meals. The possibilities are endless if food businesses with similar delivery systems also recovered surplus food through a haulback system!

Chefs to End Hunger currently works with 26 different FRV accounts in California, which makes up more than half of the 40 total FRV accounts located in the state. I had the pleasure of speaking with Brette Waters, the Special Programs Coordinator for Chefs to End Hunger, and she explained how our partnership helps her address certain logistical factors of the food recoveries. Waters explains, “This is an initiative that needs to be maintained, and there are often challenges that FRV brings to my attention in the recovery process that we might not have otherwise detected. We are all working towards the same end, and the passion that the FRN founders had to address food waste and food insecurity, while knowing you can mobilize passionate people at this level is huge.” Here at FRN, we couldn’t agree more, and Chefs to End Hunger’s efficient model is a major reason why the food recovery movement grows every single day.

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LAS makes it very easy for their customers to donate their surplus food. According to Brette, LAS funds the Chefs to End Hunger program completely, ensuring that businesses ordering food from LAS do not have to pay for the hunger kits along with their orders. This truly shows the drive and commitment of Chefs to End Hunger and LAS to make certain that thousands of hungry families across California are given the food they desperately need.

In the volatile world we live in, we need leaders and boots on the ground to work towards alleviating the issues we face every day. Brette says it well, “We can be brought to our knees with all of the challenges we face globally, nationally, within our communities, and within our neighborhoods. There are obviously too many challenges to count and it’s very easy to feel discouraged and inconsequential because the problems are too massive. However, if we don’t pick something to work on, then we are part of the problem.” Brette and the folks at Chefs to End Hunger are not discouraged by the magnitude of the issues they work on; their work in California is making waves.

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Here at FRN we couldn’t be happier with our relationship with Chefs to End Hunger. Their work has supplied millions of meals to people in California. We want to thank Chefs to End Hunger for their hard work and devotion in the fight to reduce food waste and feed food insecure people. I only expect FRN’s partnership with Chefs to End Hunger to grow, and with that growth, we will continue to blaze a path towards a less wasteful and more sustainable society.

Summit Seeds Plant CHIP Trees

Food Recovery Network (FRN) is growing and this growth comes in many forms: from student-led research, targeted outreach campaigns towards colleges without an FRN chapter, to events such as student-organized Regional Summits. California State University at Dominguez Hills (CSU, Dominguez Hills) is an example of growth from student-driven outreach.

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Hawk McFadzen, the CalFresh Outreach Coordinator at CSU, Dominguez Hills, attended the LA County Regional Summit in Spring 2018. The Regional Summits are an opportunity to learn about food recovery and connect with people in the campus community who are also interested in food waste and sustainability. After meeting FRN’s Program Manager, Hannah Cather (known as, hc), at the Regional Summit, Hawk submitted an application to join the Network and soon committed to the Chapter in Progress (CHIP) process.

The CHIP process consists of seven steps students must complete in order to become an Official FRN Chapter. Being a CHIP is an exciting time; students work with their peers, campus dining, and outside restaurants to recover surplus food. They also communicate with a hunger-fighting nonprofit partner in the community, who will receive the donated food.

It is a process that builds leaders on a college campus. Establishing a chapter gives students the opportunity to connect with external partners in order to make food recovery happen. Students will work with dining managers on campus to sort out the logistics of doing a recovery; they will coordinate the details of the recovery with their team, and they will continue to keep FRN National in the loop on their continued progress with the program.

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Hawk committed to the CHIP process because they noticed high levels of food insecurity on their campus. CSU, Dominguez Hills is one of the many chapters in our Network that donate their surplus food to an on-campus food pantry. For one of their first recoveries, they participated in the CalFresh Outreach Day. CalFresh is federally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP. The outreach day strives to connect low-income students with farmers markets that accept their SNAP benefits, giving them access to fresh, local produce.

Food Recovery Network is a budding movement and in some cases, growth is done with the help of FRNds. During the Spring, leaders from chapters across the country have the opportunity to host a Regional Summit. These Summits are one-day conferences that bring FRNds, food waste warriors, and those curious about the movement together for a day of learning and networking. The summits are put on by Regional Outreach Coordinators (ROCs). They are student leaders who work with hc to coordinate, facilitate, and promote their conference within their community.

In the Spring of 2018, with the funding of the Annenberg Foundation, FRN supported two ROCs in the five-county Los Angeles area. Frida Edninjok, Former President and founder at California State University, Northridge FRN and Elise Froebe, FRN Vice President at Pepperdine University, served as ROCs for the LA Summit.

When Elise learned that her summit had inspired a new chapter she said, “It’s encouraging to know the LA [County] Summit provided a great opportunity for discussion amongst active chapters, but that it also led to another chapter forming.”  

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After Hawk attended the LA County Summit and met the student leaders and hc, they felt that they could make a meaningful impact in their community. When asked why the summit sparked them to join the Network, Hawk said, “I was very impressed with the ease of which the chapters operate due to the support of a national network.”

They found Food Recovery Network to be an accessible organization that college students can be involved in with a mission statement people can easily follow. FRN’s student leaders can make an impact in their communities and Hawk feels FRN “allowed [them] to form a closer connection with [their] campus dining and housing staff, who are key figures in so much of what happens on our campus.”

When asked why others should join the movement Hawk said, “FRN is a realistic and tangible way to make a real difference in the lives of hungry people in our local communities.”

FRNds make real impacts in their communities, while also gaining the leadership and organizational skills necessary for the world beyond college and into their professional and graduate lives. When hc heard about the chain of events that led to CSU, Dominguez Hills committing to the process of becoming an FRN chapter she was elated saying, “when I was at the Los Angeles County Summit, I reveled in the energy of the Network… I'm thrilled they took the energy from the Summit and channeled that into launching a recovery program.”

One of the goals of the Regional Summits is to inspire and connect the Network at a smaller scale than the National Food Recovery Dialogue – a multi-day conference that intends not only to bring the entire Network and experts in the hunger and food waste spheres together, but also to welcome new, interested people to the food recovery scene.

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The ROCs work with hc and other FRN National staff to connect with people in their communities as well as FRN chapter members in their area. In the same way, Hawk from Dominguez Hills attended the Summit at CSU, Northridge, students from other universities have an opportunity to learn about FRN at Regional Summits this Spring and hopefully, they will be inspired to start a chapter on their campus.

With the support of organizations like the Annenberg Foundation and the Claneil Foundation, FRN has the capacity to host ROC Summits across the country and spread the word about food recovery in higher education. Currently, food recovery is not the norm on college campuses in the United States, but through Regional Summits, FRN hopes to change that narrative. The summits are an organic form of outreach for FRN because it is for Chapters in the Network and folks interested in joining FRN’s movement. The most important way the Network grows is through the help of FRNds. Students who have applied to be part of the Network after hearing from other chapter leaders have gone on to be strong and dedicated chapter leaders themselves.  There is nothing like a friend sharing their experience that sparks the interest of someone new.

It is safe to say Summit seeds, plant CHIP trees.

If your school does not have an FRN Chapter and you would like to change that, submit a New Chapter Application! If you are interested in the Regional Summits this Spring, check out our website for more information.






Creativity in Evaluation

Engagement - Assessment - Intervention - Evaluation! - Repeat

An all-too-familiar mantra to any student studying Social Work. As professional problem-solvers, we understand that the key to implementing real, effective change, whether on the individual or organizational level, must involve these steps, especially evaluation. I would know for I serve as Program Evaluation VISTA at Food Recovery Network (FRN). It is a fancy term to describe the examination of a program’s effectiveness. As important as the work is to the infrastructure of any initiative; the work, itself, can often be tedious and anti-climatic.

Creativity is crucial to an evaluator’s value, effectiveness, and impact. I was thus excited to learn about the evaluation of Food is Medicine intervention in the Massachusetts Food is Medicine State Plan webinar. The intervention prescribes food that is tailored to meet the medical needs of people experiencing chronic diseases and illnesses. I enjoy learning about initiatives improving the food system, so I participated in the webinar to learn from their evaluation techniques so that we, here at FRN, can better evaluate our program team’s effectiveness. I left with three takeaways that can inspire creativity and innovation in our own evaluation techniques:


1. Create goals

Throughout the webinar, I felt as if I was apart of Massachusetts’ evaluation team’s effort to understand what the data was saying. As FRN continues to enhance the services we provide to students and businesses, I look forward to empowering our Network through our evaluation goals. For instance, we love receiving Food Tracking Forms (FTFs) because they provide both a numerical and narrative picture of chapters’ recoveries. As my VISTA term continues, I plan to contribute my data analysis to FRN’s evaluation goals to strengthen our support to the network.




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2. Create diversity

The state’s evaluation plan included surveys, state-wide listening sessions, in-depth community member interviews, and spatial analysis. With access to a diverse toolkit, the evaluators were able to collect rich quantitative and qualitative data that created a comprehensive picture of the intervention’s public impact. As an evaluator nerd, nothing is better than understanding our network from a big picture. I love examining the relationships among student chapters, partner agencies, food donors, FRV accounts, financial donors, Board of Directors, and alumni - that is what makes us a network for food recovery! Managing a diverse evaluation strategy can be challenging, but rewarding.

3. Create unity

The presence of goals and diversity creates unity. A unified evaluation strategy is what I witnessed in the webinar. Their big picture produced rich understanding of the status quo of the state’s intervention and the future trajectory of the program. As I continue my time at FRN, I strive to connect our FTFs, End of Semester surveys, partner agency surveys, food donor surveys, and other evaluation measures to paint our big picture.


The Massachusetts Food is Medicine State webinar was a valuable experience; it allowed me to connect with fellow evaluators and professionals in the food system to understand a program’s effectiveness and impact. Qualitative and quantitative evaluation creates a goal-driven, diverse and unified strategy that produces the clearest picture of a program’s success and defines how to move forward in the most effective way.

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As I reflect on how I can incorporate the webinar’s lessons into my workflow, I am inspired by the message Evan Ponchick, co-founder of FRN, shared with FRN National during our professional development series. Evan recounted his experience building the University of Maryland chapter and one of the stories involved his evaluation of the food recovery data. After reviewing the spreadsheets and communicating with the dining hall, he discovered that there was still food left to recover! He and his chapter used the data to revise their recovery model. Fast forward to 2019, University of Maryland recently celebrated their 250,000th pounds recovered; a massive milestone! Because of the effective use of evaluation measures, we as a network can enjoy chapters’ creative strategies to fight waste and feed people.

I challenge you to identify one action where you can use evaluation to enhance your creation!






Children in Need: Who’s Helping?

5 minute read

When you consider those who are facing food insecurity, who do you think about? At Food Recovery Network, our mission is fighting waste and feeding people. Our chapters embody that mission when they work to recover food and donate it to hunger-fighting non-profits. Some schools focus on feeding children in need, which can include after-school programs, youth shelters, and organizations focused on helping children reach their full potential. These chapters and non-profit agencies are working hard to look after these vulnerable groups of people.

Across the US, the estimated rate of child food insecurity is higher than the rate of overall food insecurity, a term meaning the lack of consistent access to healthy food. Feeding America found that 13 million children are food insecure in their 2016 Child Food Insecurity Module report. That means that one out of every six children in the United States is food insecure. Community-level involvement is essential when considering the sheer number of children who are facing this hardship.

Non-profit organizations who partner with FRN chapters and the community at large are critical not only for the food recovery model but as a source of nutrition for individuals and families. These are the places that meet needs with action, and for children, they can be a vital link between their hungry bellies and a consistent source of food. Some organizations take a holistic view of the issue and provide educational and emotional-social support, and opportunities for recreational activities, as well as food. Other organizations focus on homeless children who may need additional community assistance. Many FRN chapters work with these organizations in order to effectively reach our most vulnerable populations. The long-standing relationship between these non-profits and FRN chapters are a sizeable part of the life source of the movement for food recovery.

Students at Carleton College tabling their recovered food

Students at Carleton College tabling their recovered food

The FRN chapter at Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota partners with several non-profit organizations in their food recovery efforts. One of them is A Child’s Delight Too, Inc., a daycare center and after-school program for at-risk teens and children. The chapter at Carleton College began partnering with them in 2015; they donate foods like produce and meat about once a week. In FRN’s 2017 Partner Agency Survey, A Child’s Delight Too, Inc. reported that they served 2,500 meals that incorporated food donated from FRN. The director, Caren Hoffman, said, “70% of the children we serve are on free or reduced lunch. [FRN] has introduced them and our staff to a wider variety of foods and ways to prepare them. Extra food that we send home with the children has provided food for them on the weekend when it is very much needed.”


Another FRN partner agency with a similar mission, Cornerstone Kids Inc, is located in Tampa, Florida. Their stated mission is, “to reach at-risk inner-city children and assist in their educational, spiritual, and emotional development in a safe, secure and nurturing environment.” They facilitate a summer program and provide enrichment activities and lunch. During the school year, they have an afterschool program with activities, homework assistance, and tutoring; hot meals are also served daily.

Children at Cornerstone Kids Inc. enjoying their meals.

Children at Cornerstone Kids Inc. enjoying their meals.

The FRN chapter at the University of Tampa, established in 2017, provides more than just a variety of food to Cornerstone Kids Inc. In addition to the hundred pounds of fresh fruit donated each semester to the afterschool program, the student volunteers of FRN also use their visits as opportunities to educate the kids about food waste. Jennifer Campbell, a co-founder and current alum of the chapter, talks about one of her favorite moments with the students during an interactive lesson they were, “so excited to talk about farming, food shopping, and cooking.”  She continues, “we have the ability to create stronger bonds with the children in hopes of becoming good role models for them who are passionate about food sustainability and other environmental issues.” In the eyes of Cornerstone Kids Inc., “it has been a wonderful relationship overall;” the money that FRN helps them save allows them to hire more staff and pay for ongoing operating costs.


Another partnership that focuses on building understanding is between the FRN chapter at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, and an organization called Children and Family Urban Movement (CFUM). The partnership started in 2014; Drake’s FRN chapter donates recovered food to them about twice a month during the semester. Brittany Freeman, the current president of the chapter, describes this important relationship, “[we] strive to bridge the gap between our students and our neighborhood. By recovering the food from our dining centers and taking it to organizations like CFUM, students become acquainted with the non-profits missions, their staff, and their daily work.”

Students from Towson University during the food recovery process.

Students from Towson University during the food recovery process.

To understand the impact of FRN and non-profit organizations on food insecure children, we must also consider those children facing homelessness -- both those populations that attend school and those that do not. According to a 2014 report by the American Institutes for Research, nearly 2.5 million children are homeless in the United States. That is equivalent to one out of every 30 children. City Rescue Mission works in Jacksonville, Florida and St. Vincent De Paul works in Baltimore, Maryland to support affected communities there. Without the aid of these organizations, the children in the surrounding communities would have to face the hardships of finding safety and food on their own.

The chapter at Jacksonville University partnered with City Rescue Mission in the spring of 2018. During that semester, they donated 3,500 pounds of recovered food to this organization “that provides food, clothing, shelter, emergency services and residential recovery programs to homeless men, women, and women with children.” The City Rescue Mission opens its doors to anyone in search of a meal or a place to stay for the night. The chapter at Jacksonville University stepped through those doors to provide food that would have otherwise gone to waste on their campus.

Celebrating their food recovery accomplishments at Jacksonville University

Celebrating their food recovery accomplishments at Jacksonville University

The church of St. Vincent De Paul in Baltimore has several programs to support the homeless community. One program in particular, called Sarah’s Hope, provides meals, youth activities and tutoring, adult education classes, and housing placements. The FRN chapter of Towson University began partnering with them in the spring of 2018. In that year alone, they donated 2,110 pounds of food to Sarah’s Hope.

Children don’t have a say in how food systems operate in our country, but they pay the price. We need to face this ugly truth: 40% of the food we produce is wasted while 13 million children may not know when their next healthy meal will be. However, FRN is changing that narrative. Chapters provide a constant supply of healthy foods to organizations that work directly with food insecurity among children. Their partnerships with local non-profit organizations in their community create relationships and opportunities for community involvement that can expand beyond the donation of the food. Supporting this growing movement against food waste means highlighting chapters and organizations like these who make sure that no child goes to bed hungry.

Heather Banikas is the Research and Outreach VISTA at Food Recovery Network. She connects issues seen during her year as a 2017-2018 AmeriCorps literacy tutor for elementary students to our current food paradox.

Kicking off the New Year by Making History!

On January 15th, Food Recovery Network (FRN) completed its second annual food recovery from the Winter Fancy Food Show, hosted by Specialty Food Association at the Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco. With the help of 100+ incredible volunteers, we recovered 33,273 pounds of food, officially making it FRN National’s largest, single-day food recovery to date!

Volunteers bring recovered food from exhibit booths to consolidation zones, where food is packed into pallets for delivery to Delancey Street Foundation.

Volunteers bring recovered food from exhibit booths to consolidation zones, where food is packed into pallets for delivery to Delancey Street Foundation.

As a Food Recovery Verified Fellow, I feel fortunate to have been onsite for this unique recovery effort; it was an experience unlike any other. Meeting our volunteers, feeling their excitement, watching as recovered food accumulated, and knowing that every morsel would be used to help feed food insecure individuals made for an excellent day. Not only did we recover a record-breaking amount of food, but FRN more than doubled the number of volunteers involved and forged new partnerships in the process.

We happily welcomed more than 100 volunteers, representing 25 different companies, organizations, and universities, to help collect and pack surplus food from vendors at the Winter Fancy Food Show. People traveled from all over to join us for this recovery and some even flew from across the country to assist, simply because they understand and believe in the significance of our work.

For one day, a group of people united around a mission to fight food waste, but the longevity and impact of that effort is endless.

FRN would like to thank Clif Bar, the Feedfeed, Robert Half Technology, The Town Kitchen, and Woodard & Curran, as well as student and alumni groups from San Francisco State University and the University of Maryland, in particular. Each of these groups were instrumental in promoting our call for volunteers across their networks and ensuring we had enough volunteers to reach our recovery goal! After the event, Rachel Gross from Woodard & Curran said, “This is a really fun event! It's high energy, high impact, and fun to see all of the different fancy foods that get donated.”

Giora Stuchiner, Art Director at Feedfeed, organizes perishable food items in the South Hall Consolidation Zone.

Giora Stuchiner, Art Director at Feedfeed, organizes perishable food items in the South Hall Consolidation Zone.

The energy from our volunteers, their joy and the positivity that oozed from every conversation fueled an incredibly successful recovery. I was reminded of what is possible when people mobilize to support an important cause. For one day, a group of people united around a mission to fight food waste, but the longevity and impact of that effort is endless. As volunteers worked together throughout the afternoon, they fostered connections, developed a deeper sense of community, and ultimately diverted thousands of pounds of food from going to waste.

Stephanie Muller, Director of Development at Delancey Street Foundation (left) with Regina Anderson, Executive Director at Food Recovery Network (right) are all smiles as recovered food is delivered and unpacked in the Delancey Street kitchen.

Stephanie Muller, Director of Development at Delancey Street Foundation (left) with Regina Anderson, Executive Director at Food Recovery Network (right) are all smiles as recovered food is delivered and unpacked in the Delancey Street kitchen.

For the second year in a row, all of the food recovered from the Winter Fancy Food Show was donated to Delancey Street Foundation, a nonprofit organization that provides critical support to individuals recovering from substance and/or alcohol abuse and those formerly incarcerated as they reintegrate into the community. Much of the surplus food will be utilized for their culinary training program, where it will be converted into meals for residents and workers at their San Francisco campus. “We pack bag lunches for our delivery drivers and other workers daily. It’s great that we can use a lot of really nice, healthy foods from the event for that purpose,” said Stephanie Muller, Director of Development at Delancey Street Foundation.


This is enough food to feed 25 people three meals per day, every day for an entire year!

You might wonder, what does 33,000 pounds of food actually look like? With a number so large, it’s hard to envision what this means so I’ll do my best to break it down. The amount of food recovered from this single event equates to roughly 27,000 meals. To put that into perspective, this is enough food to feed 25 people three meals per day, every day for an entire year! How amazing is that? It’s so heartwarming to think that the work we accomplished in one afternoon will continue to make a difference for others throughout the year.

Whether you recover enough food for one meal or thousands of meals, the time dedicated to fighting food waste matters to someone else on the receiving end.

The Delancey Street Foundation’s kitchen crew give thanks for the recovered food.

The Delancey Street Foundation’s kitchen crew give thanks for the recovered food.

When I reflect on the success of this recovery, I come back to the people who made it possible. Every person involved in bringing this day to fruition has made an impact in ways they will likely never see or fully understand. However, Daniza Acenas, a volunteer from San Francisco State University, described her service beautifully, “it is one way to reflect on how much we can positively affect people’s lives by giving them the basic necessities, empathy, and hope.” It’s invigorating to know that whether you recover enough food for one meal or thousands of meals, the time dedicated to fighting food waste matters to someone else on the receiving end.

Thank you again to all who made this event so special! I left San Francisco inspired to build off the momentum we created at the 2019 Winter Fancy Food Show recovery, and I am certain that this will be a great year as we continue to fight food waste and feed more people.