Nearly five years ago, in September 2011, Food Recovery Network was just beginning to take off at the University of Maryland. After spending a summer planning for the new academic year, we turned our campus FRN-green: recovering five nights a week, recruiting volunteers from 11 different student groups, coordinating our first football game recovery, and, of course, making FRN’s first clip art logo. During the day, Ben, Cam and I — along with the dedicated FRN leadership team at UMD — spent our time in between (and during) classes texting volunteers details of the upcoming recoveries, calling our dining managers, and communicating with our partner agencies about drop-off times. In the evenings, we’d meet as a leadership team at the McKeldin Library to celebrate our rapid growth and work through any challenges. Pretty quickly, we were donating thousands of pounds of food monthly to hunger-fighting agencies in Prince George's County, Maryland, and Washington, D.C.
Does this story sound familiar? That’s because if you replace the names and locations, you would have the story of the founders, presidents, and leaders of FRN’s 186 chapters across the country.
If you were in room 1101 of the University of Maryland's BioScience Research Building on April 2, 2016 at 9 a.m. — just a minute's walk from the very library where FRN had its first meetings — you would have seen an auditorium filled with more than 400 people, many of whom were FRN student founders and leaders, for the 2016 National Food Recovery Dialogue. I felt humbled to be standing before hundreds of people who have dedicated their time to fighting food waste and hunger with my fellow co-founders: Ben, Cam, Becca, Lauren, and Nick. After we shared the story of our respective chapters, and what it was like to work together to spread FRN to colleges and universities across America, I had the opportunity to reflect with Becca. “You know what’s really cool?” she said. “Our co-founder story is irrelevant.”
"Irrelevant?" I thought, almost in a panic. This is my life’s work, our lives’ work. But as she continued to explain, it really sunk in. Our story isn’t unique anymore. We have hundreds of FRNds who can relate to the struggles we faced as students: worry constantly about not having enough volunteers, learning how to coordinate logistics with supplies, and even skipping class to go on last-minute recoveries. There are nearly 200 chapters we can celebrate successes with. Our students ask the questions of, “What university did you go to?” and, “Does it have an FRN chapter?” just as often as we do, and as seen in this Huffington Post article, they are the voice of the movement now.
I’m proud to say that my story has become irrelevant.