Alumni Spotlight: Carl Diethelm, Green Mountain College '17

Environmental Protection Agency's Food Recovery Hierarchy (

Environmental Protection Agency's Food Recovery Hierarchy (

Carl Diethelm, a 2017 graduate of Green Mountain College in Poultney, Vermont, founded his school’s FRN chapter as a junior in the spring of 2016. As one of the most sustainable colleges in the United States, Green Mountain College was already composting much of the uneaten food at the dining hall when Carl first started the chapter. But composting only goes so far, and it took Carl’s enhanced knowledge of the issue to come up with an even better idea for dealing with the leftover food. According to the Environmental Protection Agency’s food recovery

hierarchy, a chart of management strategies for what to do with wasted food, source reduction and feeding people are far more beneficial to both the environment and to society than composting or throwing food in a landfill. Through his work starting this FRN chapter, Carl realized that donating leftover prepared food could help Green Mountain dining become even more environmentally conscious and ethical by moving three steps higher on the food recovery hierarchy. He says, “I was known as ‘Compost Carl’, but because of my experience with FRN, I realized it is much more fulfilling to get food to people or animals, or prevent it from being over-produced in the first place.”

Carl Diethelm.jpg

This experience of finding an even better solution to a problem that many thought was already solved encouraged Carl to pursue a career in organic waste diversion after graduation. Carl now works at the GMC dining hall as the food recovery specialist and server, working to help his school achieve zero-waste status, while continuing to support GMC’s FRN chapter. He also serves as Outreach Coordinator for the Rutland County Solid Waste Management Entity, a materials management planning and administration organization. He contacts businesses, schools, and other organizations directly to discuss proper disposal of their unused materials. For example, the state of Vermont recently passed a Universal Recycling Law that requires everyone to divert food scraps from the landfill by 2020, and the Solid Waste Districts are charged with making sure everyone knows this law exists and ensuring they are aware of different options available to comply with it. Days spent fighting waste and feeding people, Carl says, “is very rewarding to me, and I see myself continuing in these career areas for a long time,” he said.  

His favorite FRN memory is his chapter’s first community meal at the local Methodist Church, which had more than 70 attendees. “It was nerve-wracking to try serving all those people in two hours from a small kitchen, but the reward was a great feeling of accomplishment.” To current FRN students, Carl advises: “Take it slow. While it can be disheartening to see how much food is wasted every minute, rushing to start new programs or extend current food recovery projects can sometimes result in burn-out and maybe a loss of food safety. Start new relationships with small pilot programs, and use the network to reach out to others if you have any questions.”

Carl also encourages students to keep an open mind. “Some people might not be excited about certain foods they receive, but listen to them with an open heart and just do your best to use the feedback in positive ways,” he says. “While one of the main goals of food recovery is to help prevent food insecurity, it is not a solution to reducing poverty. Recognizing that others might be less privileged and have different foods they are raised eating will allow you to step back and remember that we are all human with our own unique life experience.”

The FRN Alumni Network is powerful because passionate alumni like Carl are out in the workforce and in communities all across the country. Finding real solutions to real problems, even when it’s difficult, is what FRN leaders do best. Carl, thanks for all you do and keep up the great work!

Interested in being part of our alumni network? Fill out our survey to stay connected here, and email or Sarah Diamond, our Alumni Programs VISTA, at with any inquiries you have. We can’t wait to hear from you!


27,655 pounds of food, 50 volunteers, 1 massive recovery: How FRN made history at the 2018 Winter Fancy Food Show

“I got to see, with my own eyes, what over 27,000 pounds of food waste actually is. No food waste statistic, article, picture, or story will ever be as impactful as standing next to the mountains of would-have-been-wasted food.” — Jack Steinmann, FRN Chapter President at San Francisco State University

Food Recovery Network (FRN) started 2018 by making history with our largest one-day food recovery to date: 27,655 pounds of food. Fifty volunteers recovered 68 pallets of products from the Specialty Food Association 2018 Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco, which was donated to the Delancey Street Foundation, a nonprofit residential self-help organization.

Specialty Food Association (SFA), a membership-based trade association that represents specialty food retailers, entrepreneurs, and distributors, hosts a Fancy Food Show every summer in New York City and winter in San Francisco. During these events, SFA members have the opportunity to showcase their latest and greatest food products to buyers and competition alike. Buyers include those purchasing for markets, large and small, throughout the country. Thousands of vendors fill aisles with an array of food products from around the world including everything from flavored chocolates, artisanal cheeses and handmade pastas, to olive oils, coconut waters, and small batch salsas.

The entrance into the Moscone Center, South Hall, as the 2018 Winter Fancy Food Show is in full swing.

The entrance into the Moscone Center, South Hall, as the 2018 Winter Fancy Food Show is in full swing.

FRN is proud to have verified both the Summer and Winter Fancy Food Shows through our Food Recovery Verified program. When FRN verifies an event, we ensure that surplus food is donated to a local nonprofit organization. Food Recovery Verification is a way for businesses and events to show — to their employees and customers — that they are taking positive steps to divert food waste from landfills. The Fancy Food Shows are paving the way for other events by recovering their food and gaining recognition for doing so by becoming Food Recovery Verified.

“Specialty Food Association is a leader in the food industry space. They've prioritized food recovery at their signature Fancy Food events,” said Annie Lobel, FRN’s Director of External Partnerships and Growth. “Our goal is for other influencers in the sector to join our fight to reduce unnecessary food waste.”

FRN National’s 2018 Winter Fancy Food Show Recovery Organizers (Paloma Sisneros-Lobato, Michael Boyd, and Annie Lobel, in green shirts) with the Director of Freight Operations at The Freeman Company (Louis Travieso, center) ecstatic to see the amount of incredible food being redirected from the landfill

FRN National’s 2018 Winter Fancy Food Show Recovery Organizers (Paloma Sisneros-Lobato, Michael Boyd, and Annie Lobel, in green shirts) with the Director of Freight Operations at The Freeman Company (Louis Travieso, center) ecstatic to see the amount of incredible food being redirected from the landfill

On January 23, volunteers gathered at the Moscone Center, a conference center in downtown San Francisco that is so large that its two buildings are connected by a tunnel underneath Howard Street. Volunteers were trained by FRN national staff on how to do a recovery from a trade show. At four p.m., the Winter Fancy Food Show ended, and the recovery commenced. Among the organized chaos of the show being torn down, volunteers used rolling bins to scoot up and down aisles collecting food labeled “perishable” and “non-perishable” prioritizing perishable items to keep within food safety regulations. The event spanned across three massive halls. With good running shoes and lots of energy, volunteers navigated the aisles of their designated halls, some the size of a football field. After collecting donated food, the items were organized in consolidation zones, placed onto pallets and shrink wrapped. Every pallet that was wrapped inspired feelings of accomplishment among volunteers and staff because the incredible food was going to the Delancey Street Foundation.

The Delancey Street Foundation, a residential organization that supports individuals through job training and other reentry programs, was the primary partner agency and nonprofit recipient for this recovery; 27,655 pounds was donated to its culinary training program. Delancey supports individuals who are recovering from alcohol and/or substance abuse or those who are reintegrating into society after being incarcerated. Part of this support includes job programs that teach and employ individuals in truck driving, restaurant work, and other vocational occupations.

For the recovery, FRN collaborated with Delancey’s truck driving school to organize the food transportation. “What an absolute joy it was to be able to participate in the food recovery,” said Stephanie Muller, member of the Delancey Street Foundation leadership team. “The [FRN] team was quick, helpful, thoughtful and giving; what a rare combination.”

It was very rewarding to find a partner agency that could not only accept the entire food donation, but that contributed to the recovery’s success and was so gracious in the process. “We feed over 250 residents three meals a day and they are in heaven to be able to eat tasty, healthy, fresh food,” Stephanie said.

To organize and execute this recovery, FRN brought together individuals from across the FRN Bay Area community, which included dedicated students, alumni, and professionals.

Recovered food stacked high on pallets on trade show floor awaiting delivery to recipient partner agency

Recovered food stacked high on pallets on trade show floor awaiting delivery to recipient partner agency

“The Bay Area is packed with people who want to be part of changing our community for the better, but [they] most often don't have the luxury of extra time to act on those goals,” said Jack Steinmann, chapter President at San Francisco State University (SFSU). Steinmann recruited volunteers for the Winter Fancy Food Show recovery from every student group he could think of, including sports teams, greek life, and of course, the SFSU FRN chapter. “I had to spread my search further and further throughout the Bay, which helped me connect with organizations and individuals I otherwise would not have had the opportunity to interact with.”

Makena Wong, co-founder of the Santa Clara University chapter and now alumna, was so dedicated to making this project a success that she brought along a group of colleagues from her company’s San Francisco office.

“The highlight of the event for me was seeing my co-workers experience food recovery for the first time. Many of them expressed their confusion, shock, and amazement as they slowly realized the volume of food we were saving. It was invigorating for me to see them start to get it – the injustice bothered them and motivated them to act.”

Evan Ponchick, one of the founding members of the flagship FRN chapter at the University of Maryland, now lives in San Francisco and was able to join the crew of volunteers. Nearly seven years ago, he volunteered at the first-ever FRN food recovery; it was truly momentous that he was able to partake in FRN’s largest-ever recovery in San Francisco this January.  

“It was incredibly meaningful and empowering to see current college students that are a part of Bay Area FRN chapters help make this recovery happen.” Evan reflected. “I am thrilled to see that the organization is at a point where it can grow and have even greater impact beyond college campuses!”

The food recovery movement is gaining momentum every day from the work that FRN is doing across the country. Students at more than 235 FRN chapters recover food from their campuses while Food Recovery Verified businesses build food recovery into their daily operations. By organizing a recovery from the 2018 Winter Fancy Food Show, FRN helped this event set the precedent for similar events of this scale. Across the country, food recovery can —and should— be the norm in our schools, our businesses, and at our events. Pallet by pallet and pound by pound, it is possible to fight waste and feed people in every community.

FRN Program Manager Hannah Cather and enthusiastic volunteers recovering from the show floor in the Moscone Center Esplanade

FRN Program Manager Hannah Cather and enthusiastic volunteers recovering from the show floor in the Moscone Center Esplanade

Thank you:

This recovery was monumental for FRN. It brought together so many important and passionate individuals including friends at Specialty Food Foundation, Freeman Co., Delancey, and of course, our many San Francisco and Bay Area chapters. We are extremely grateful for those who made this achievement possible, including:

Students and alumni from:

  • California State University, Fresno

  • San Francisco State University

  • Santa Clara University

  • University of California, Berkeley

  • University of California, Davis

  • University of California, San Diego

  • University of San Francisco

Friends from companies and organizations including:

  • Clif Bar & Company

  • Delancey Street Foundation

  • EPA

  • Freeman Co.

  • Google

  • Hampton Creek

  • Ideo

  • Malone Security

  • Specialty Food Association

  • ThoughtWorks

  • Woodard and Curran

FRN at the 2018 Food Rescue Summit: Where Will the Movement Go From Here?

On January 23-24, FRN’s Alumni Programs VISTA, Sarah Diamond, and Program and Resource Development Fellow, Paul Sherman, attended Feeding America’s Food Rescue Summit in Washington, D.C. They met with leaders from government agencies, nonprofits, food banks, and food waste startups to discuss the many facets of food rescue. On Day 2 of the summit, they spoke on a panel entitled “Raising Awareness and Creating Advocates Across Generations” with Kris Sadens of ATTN:, Kate MacKenzie of City Harvest, and moderator Blythe Chorn of Deloitte Consulting LLP. They represented FRN and a growing generation of young food waste warriors. After the summit, they worked with the George Washington University FRN chapter to recover 54 pounds of food from the summit and deliver it to the Central Union Mission, one of GW’s partner agencies.

The following are their thoughts on the summit and where they think the movement will go from here.

Sarah Diamond:

The opening speech at Feeding America’s Food Rescue Summit in Washington, D.C. left me with chills. Andy Wilson, the Development Director of Feeding America, the third-largest charity organization in America, talked about work he had done to feed people in Russia during the heart of the Cold War, when more than 70% of the Russian population had fallen into destitute poverty in a matter of months. He was part of the team that delivered huge pallets of perishable and non-perishable food items to people in the heart of Siberia. A pallet of food that was about to pass its expiration date was seen as a potential threat, and, unsure what to do, they decided to bury it so it couldn’t potentially harm people and wouldn’t have to be sent back. The next morning, Andy and his team found that the case had been dug up by local people to eat. It was in that moment that he knew that allowing food to be wasted in a place where people are hungry is a sin like no other.


The point of his story was that excess and destitution should never coexist in the same space — not in the Siberian tundra, not in the United States, not anywhere. Ensuring that food did not go to waste while people are hungry was the theme of the entire summit: companies, food waste organizations, food banks, and governmental employees convened here to discuss how we are going to put a stop to such a harmful yet pervasive issue in this world.

Panelists discussed big questions in the food waste space, such as: how are we going to feed people now while also addressing the root causes of hunger? How do we recover food now, while also realizing that food recovery is more of a band-aid than a long-term solution? What are the implications of all this?

After listening to speakers who have been working in the areas of food waste, hunger, or food recovery for years, I had the opportunity to present my story on a panel. I talked about the time I spent co-leading my Food Recovery Network chapter at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin, one of the country’s northernmost cities with a population of about 75,000 people. On some days that we dropped off food that would have been thrown away from our dining hall at our partner agencies — we worked with a Boys and Girls club, a homeless shelter, a church, and a soup kitchen — the lobby would be filled with people, doing whatever they could to get out of the below zero temperatures of the harsh upper midwest. My own experiences with food recovery connected back to Andy Wilson’s story in Russia so closely, and it really solidified how stomach-churning and cruel it is to throw out food when there are so many hungry people. I knew it when I saw those lobbies full of people at my partner agencies and I knew it again when I heard Andy speak: eradicating hunger and homelessness will always be my personal and professional bottom lines. In a world that is so full of excess and so full of such great need, it is absolutely our moral obligation to do everything we can to close the gap that exists between them.

Paul Sherman:


Attending Feeding America’s Food Rescue Summit and sharing my experiences in a breakout session reenergized me on several levels. It’s reassuring to know that my generation of anti-food waste advocates is supported by experts from different industries. As I enter the workforce with the intention of ending food waste and combating hunger and food insecurity, it is exciting to know that I am entering a new, emerging field. That said, I also hope this is a dying field; every day, I aim to work myself out of a job. As a young professional, that’s a difficult idea to come to terms with, but a powerful one no less.

I still remember sitting in my dining hall during my freshman year in 2014 at the University of Denver, watching a dining employee take a tray full of chocolate chip cookies at the end of lunch and dumping it in the trash. Even if I wasn’t personally going to eat them, I felt strongly that these cookies should be fed to a person, not a landfill. Today, part of the reason this disturbs me is knowing that the same thing is happening with all different kinds of food: so long as it’s leftover, the understood next step is to throw it away. What I didn’t realize at the time was that I had the ability to affect positive change within the culture that made it acceptable for disposal of surplus food to be the normal course of action.

Four years later, I’m as confident as ever that we can change these destructive behaviors. At the Food Rescue Summit, I learned about innovative ways to combat food waste. For instance, Spoiler Alert makes it easier for food businesses to recover the value from their unsold inventory. By using real-time data, they identify existing waste reduction and diversion efforts while identifying new outlets for food donation. Representatives from the World Wildlife Fund spoke about their efforts to reduce food waste because of its direct negative effects on wildlife across the globe. The 19-year-old in me who was dismayed by a tray of cookies being thrown away would be proud to know that in 2018, companies and organizations are taking this issue to heart.

In his closing presentation, author Jonathan Bloom acknowledged a harsh reality that we in the food rescue movement face: food recovery is temporary. When we are successful in finding an end to wasted food in America, we will need to come up with new ways to combat hunger and food insecurity. Ironically, after two days of discussing food rescue, Bloom warned us against an overemphasis on recycling of food rather than the reduction of wasted food in the first place. Yes, food rescue keeps people fed, but we must be true to both sides of the coin: fighting waste and feeding people. I wonder, what’s next after we address the root causes of wasted food? How can we continue to ensure that hunger and food insecurity are core issues in this movement, even when we don’t have any food to redistribute?

I look forward to continuing to grapple with these questions. I hope that we continue to have conversations with our peers about how to best tackle food waste, hunger, and food insecurity. After all, I think people are finally waking up to the fact that food waste is a tangible and solvable issue, one that we can’t afford to ignore.

Food Recovery Verified, a program of FRN, is changing the perspective of surplus food in America


Did you know that, in addition to the higher education sector, Food Recovery Network supports businesses and event organizers that do the right thing with their surplus food? FRN remains a student-powered movement, but under the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Act, all food donors are free of liability if they donate food in good faith to a nonprofit organization. Now think about what that means; the hotel you stayed at last summer with your family, the pizza place you order takeout from, the catering company from your cousin’s wedding, and your favorite local cafe can all recover their surplus food and donate it to those who need it most in their communities.

FRN’s reach now goes far beyond universities. Food Recovery Verified (FRV), a program of FRN established in 2014, recognizes food businesses and events that recover their surplus food and donate it to a nonprofit. Food recovery is a crucial part of a food system in which 40% of food that is produced goes to waste while 1 in 6 Americans does not know where their next meal is coming from.

We want to introduce our network to the businesses and events that recover their surplus food and ensure their stories are shared. FRV gives these businesses and events that recognition. Any food business that recovers food at least once a month and donates to a nonprofit organization qualifies to become verified. FRV accounts, which now span 15 sectors, across 32 states, are changing the way businesses, employees, and consumers perceive food waste.

FRN is growing thanks to the constant support of passionate college students and the hard work put in by nearly 100 verified accounts across the nation. In the coming months, we will be featuring stories on our blog that highlight various Food Recovery Verified accounts and events. Stay tuned to learn more about these incredible businesses and events and the organizations where they donate their surplus food! If you know of a great business or event doing the right thing with their surplus food, or want to learn more about starting a recovery program, reach out to us at

Together, we will change the norm from food waste to food recovery!

#FRNSpeaks: University of Delaware, Fruit Ninja, and New Chapter Operations

My name is Rachel Cohen and I’m a junior Energy and Environmental Policy major at the University of Delaware. At UD, I’m involved in the Blue Hen Leadership Program, a four tiered leadership program aiming to build students’ leadership skills and encourage opportunities to engage in community service. It was through BHLP that I was able to get to know junior Public Health major Jaime Renman when she led a group of my peers and myself on a spring break trip to Baltimore, Maryland. The trip was focused on urban hunger and revitalization. We spent the week volunteering our time preparing urban farms for growth, working with nonprofits that aimed to rejuvenate the city, and walking the streets of inner city Baltimore giving brown-bagged lunches to homeless folks. Getting to know Jaime during this trip exposed her dedication to service and her passion for public health. These traits continue to guide her as she leads the University of Delaware chapter of the Food Recovery Network.

E-board members Erika Opena, Jaime Renman, and Robin Norko volunteering at the chapter’s 2016 food drive, where the chapter rounded up 98 pounds of food. This year, they surpassed their goal of 100 pounds by collecting 205 pounds!

E-board members Erika Opena, Jaime Renman, and Robin Norko volunteering at the chapter’s 2016 food drive, where the chapter rounded up 98 pounds of food. This year, they surpassed their goal of 100 pounds by collecting 205 pounds!

Jaime reflects on her high school “fruit ninja” job at her local Acme, where she spent hours chopping fruits and vegetables. She remarks on the guilt she felt about the sizable amount of viable produce that she had to throw away. Not only were the chopping techniques inherently wasteful, but she was also told to throw away bruised and imperfect food. This experience sparked an energy in Jaime which catalyzed her passion for fighting food waste. She went on her first alternative spring break trip focused on urban hunger during her freshman year. As a result, Jaime became aware of health disparities surrounding food waste, expressing, “Wow… there are people who live in food deserts and can’t even access healthy food, and yet I’m surrounded by these huge supermarkets where I can buy anything I want and usually waste a lot.” The trip opened Jaime’s eyes to her passion about doing service and helped her identify her values. She returned to campus with a refreshing attitude: “I was like, okay! How do I continue this?”

Lucky for Jaime, the answer sort of fell into her lap. Her resident assistant from freshman year was the vice president and a founding member of FRN at UD, and all but two of the executive board members were set to graduate at the end of the year. Jaime went on a recovery and said to herself, “I don’t really know a lot about FRN, but it seems like a cool initiative and a leadership position to continue service about food insecurity which I’m passionate about.” She became the president her sophomore year and describes the process of taking on the position as being initially quite difficult. There wasn’t a smooth transition in leadership, and Jaime didn’t know where to begin with an e-board that was mostly new to food recovery and her own minimal knowledge about leading a group.

FRN at UD attended the National Food Recovery Dialogue and came back to campus energized, motivated, and inspired with new ways to help spread the mission of FRN.

FRN at UD attended the National Food Recovery Dialogue and came back to campus energized, motivated, and inspired with new ways to help spread the mission of FRN.

She says she “had to be comfortable with being uncomfortable.” She forged new relationships and took over communication with UD Dining that had been halted by the e-board members who graduated before her. “I put on my best professional manner and put my passion into it and drive and commitment. That’s what I could give.” She observed how only a portion of the past e-board members were really present so she emphasized that dedication from the newe-board would support the club to grow sustainably. Jaime and her e-board team became more educated about the causes, details, and effects of food waste and began utilizing asset-based approaches that hone the skills of the individual members.  “And it ended up working out,” she says with a wide smile on her face. “Empowering other students and inspiring them to become more aware or to get involved with FRN has been the most rewarding.”

FRN at UD currently recovers food from one of three dining halls on campus. Twice a week, an e-board member and 2 volunteers load the already packaged, frozen food into soft coolers for a representative from the Food Bank of Delaware to pick up. One of the students submits the pounds of food recovered and other data to FRN National.

Although they are recovering less food than in past semesters, the UD chapter maintains relationships with other hunger-fighting nonprofits by informing them that the donations will be back once they recruit more volunteers and have the capacity to recover more frequently. The FRN Chapter held a food drive in Fall 2017 and surpassed their goal by accumulating 205 pounds of non perishables. In order to say, “we still care about you and we still want to donate to you” as Jaime eagerly puts it, they delivered all the food they recovered from the drive to these nonprofits.

The UD chapter is working on reaching out to local restaurants to recover more food. Jaime and Jaclyn Romano, the VP of Restaurant Donations, have begun fostering relationships to start recovering food from local restaurants in the near future. Jaclyn is the point of contact between FRN and local restaurants, seeking to foster relationships to increase food donations. She says that her biggest challenge with the position was “the fear of being brushed off by restaurants” due to anxiety that she would sound insecure and awkward when going to speak to restaurant managers. “Jaime,” Jaclyn says, “was my biggest motivator. I was losing motivation, and Jaime pushed me. We went together to talk to managers of restaurants.” Jaclyn’s perspective transformed. “I realized how awesome of an idea people think FRN is. Every manager I spoke to was so passionate for the idea and didn’t hesitate to want to be involved.” Jaclyn can’t wait to see the club initiating more recoveries in Spring 2018.

E-board members Macy Oteri, Jaime Renman, and Izzy Aswad pose with produce that is rejected due to its imperfections at the NFRD conference.

E-board members Macy Oteri, Jaime Renman, and Izzy Aswad pose with produce that is rejected due to its imperfections at the NFRD conference.

In efforts to increase membership, the e-board members first began speaking to classrooms about FRN, the mission, and how to join the movement. Their member turnout at meetings significantly increased as a result. Jaclyn says their meetings began with just the e-board, “to now having a genuine group of people that are really interested and want to be involved.” They’ve formed committees, made up of a few students led by a member of the e-board, who work to find more donation sources, more hunger-fighting nonprofits to receive food, and other ways to promote food waste education. Other techniques to increase awareness and membership include handing out facts about food waste with a piece of candy in the student centers and asking food waste trivia questions to passersby to engage the community in a quick and fun way. Jaime has even had dreams about the future success of the UD FRN chapter. “I think there are really good things coming. I have to stay motivated and we have to keep motivating each other and keep building the movement,” she says. 

On a personal level, “FRN definitely built my leadership skills in terms of learning how to work on a team and how I work in a team,” says Jaime. Additionally, the position has improved her communication, professionalism, and courage. She has realized that it doesn’t hurt to go out there and seek food donations, because “the worst people can say is ‘no’.” Leading this transformative process has shown Jaime that she has the power to impact positive change. Her experience in FRN “shows that this generation cares a lot and that we’re on a positive trajectory.”