The National Food Recovery Dialogue is over, and all of us at FRN National have had a bit of time to wipe away our happy tears, get some rest, and delve into our leftover Hampton Creek vegan cookie dough and Hungry Harvest fruit. We’ve also had time to reflect on the unforgettable three days we spent with more than 400 students, food activists, community leaders, and industry professionals.
Our initial feeling is simple: we’re impressed. We’re impressed by how intelligent, accomplished, kind, and engaged FRN students are. While we knew this already, having 400 FRNds sitting in a room asking insightful questions, sharing best practices, and encouraging each other to make change was a powerful experience. Our This Recovered Life speakers blew us away, and we know that each FRN student has a story that is similarly powerful.
The NFRD was also a reminder that our efforts in food recovery fit into a broader fabric of complex social justice and environmental issues. Many of our speakers and presenters shared personal experiences of racial injustice, hunger, homelessness, and poverty. Dreaming Out Loud founder Christopher Bradshaw ended his moving presentation by challenging us to ask difficult questions and have uncomfortable conversations about the problems with our world, and to do it with love, respect, and care. We hope that you’ll accept this challenge -- we know our team will strive to do the same.
The NFRD left us with the distinct feeling that the time to change the food waste norm is now. There is momentum and willpower from so many organizations, policymakers and individuals. We have stronger research that is yielding more data than ever about the environmental impacts of food waste and the ways we can combat it. Policymakers are beginning to take note of the issue as well, which made it possible for FRN students to advocate for food recovery legislation during our first ever Lobby Day. Stories like Jen Rustemeyer’s, one of the filmmakers behind the documentary “Just Eat It: A Food Waste Story”, remind us of the scale of the issue while also reaffirming the power of individuals to make change in their everyday lives.
Looking forward, we know that our student leaders will continue to be change-makers in their communities. FRN students are bright and motivated. They understand the complexity of the issues and have strong principles; at the end of the day, they prioritize action and promote feasible solutions. This spring, many of our chapters will build upon the amazing work they already do by organizing Feeding our FRNds events across the country, hosting meals curated from recovered food that will bring communities together.
Below are some thought from our team about the NFRD:
It was incredible to be surrounded by hundreds of people with so many varying life experiences, all connected because of food recovery. We had our student leaders fighting food waste on the ground, representatives of dining service providers, formerly homeless individuals, hunger-fighting community leaders, chefs, USDA and EPA Reps, and the Mayor of College Park (and more) all in one room -- that felt really powerful!
It's almost unreal to realize that more than 400 who care about fighting waste and feeding people were able to come together for one weekend. I get chills when imagining what that means for the future and the way that FRN student leaders initiate change. We got to spend quality time listening and learning and sharing ideas with people from all across the country. Our stories may look a bit different, but ultimately we're all telling the same tale: solve America's food waste and hunger problems.
I was blown away by our students all weekend long. They were poised, knowledgeable, and showed an overwhelming commitment to take ideas from the conference back to their campuses. I was especially moved by our Lobby Day students who spoke passionately about food waste and hunger and seriously impressed the staffers!