"If you have a problem, yo, I'll solve it"

FRN Executive Director Regina (far right) with The New School FRN student leaders and dining staff. 

FRN Executive Director Regina (far right) with The New School FRN student leaders and dining staff. 

I had the opportunity to attend two back-to-back events in Washington, D.C. this month: the Food Waste Reduction Alliance (FWRA) fall convening, followed by Feeding America’s first-ever Food Recovery Summit, where I served on a panel discussing challenges in food recovery. I was surrounded by great minds and doers representing all areas of the food production chain -- from farming, to packaging, to selling, to recovering.

The two days were invigorating because, as leaders in both gatherings grappled with current and future problems plaguing their industry (understanding their data better, best practices to proliferate information, ways to reduce waste in all areas of food production), I knew that I had the answer to these varied problems. And I told the audience when I had a chance to speak.

The answer to all of their problems, current and future, is our students. Across the country, they’re working tirelessly to recover food on their campuses and in their communities; they are the solution all of these organizations so desperately need. They are the ones who will engineer new machinery for farming to leave less food in the field, they are the ones who will enact new national and state food policy, they will lead these companies and create new businesses, and they are the ones changing their behaviors to generate less food waste and move the dialogue from waste to recovery.

There was a room of nodding heads, as the understanding of what that can mean for how we think about food production. Things are already starting to look differently because of the power of our chapters. I was visiting The New School FRN chapter in New York and heard their story of the difficulties they faced in beginning to recover food. They persisted and began recovering about 60 pounds of food per recovery. Then, thanks to a realignment of commitments around sustainability, a shift occurred and dining services began to support their efforts. Now, The New School FRN is able to recover almost 200 pounds of food per event.

Our students are making these kinds of changes across the country each day, and I look forward to seeing this movement grow as each of them increase their individual skills as leaders, and as a collective they join forces to enact national change. Go team!