Bringing Food Recovery to the Football Field

In the fall of 2018, the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s (UL) Office of Sustainability created a “Zero Waste” initiative as part of UL’s overall Sustainability Strategic Plan. This Zero Waste initiative started with the school’s home football games, where trash from inside the stadium would be diverted from the landfill. One focus of this project centered around recovering surplus food from football concessions. Large amounts of food from concessions end up in a landfill after each game instead of feeding many in need throughout the Lafayette community.


Coordination, Partnering, Planning  

The first thing the team did was identify all key players for the food recovery within the stadium. We then made a food recovery plan that would be easily integrated within the existing stadium concession operations. We got the Head of Sodexo Stadium Operations on board, who contacted those in charge of the six concessions stands within the stadium. The Head of Catering let the workers and servers in the three press box levels and first floor catered food area in the stadium know about the food recovery. Lastly, Second Harvest Food Bank, our hunger-fighting nonprofit partner agency, who receives all of our donated food, was brought in so they could arrange a driver to pick up the food from the stadium after the football games ended.


After all parties were engaged, the plan was to start collection as soon as the football game let out. Several steps were taken to set up the food recovery. The Second Harvest driver was scheduled to come collect the food about an hour after the game ended. Two to three other student volunteers and I (the president of the FRN chapter at UL) were designated to collect all of the food from the concessions. We planned to collect from the press boxes and catering first, since they were the first to pack up and leave. Once everything was packed up from catering, we went to the stadium gate to meet the Second Harvest driver. There we set up a station where we could load the recovered food onto the truck as we collected it. The other concession stands were instructed to package the prepared food, using their own packaging, and leave the food in the front of the concession stands for us to come around and collect. This made the collection run more efficiently because concessions had time to finish their closing procedures, while we collected from the press boxes.

Like most new and larger food recovery operations, we did not have everything completely ironed out at first. We really didn’t have this plan completely figured out until about the third football game. Thankfully, after working through the first three games, this recovery procedure began to really work for the food recovery team and stadium workers. We are now beginning to apply this food recovery plan to future athletic events.

Outcome and Impact

The impact of recovering food from UL’s football games was something completely unexpected. From the six home football games, we recovered a total of 2,072 pounds of prepared food, which went on to make 1,727 meals for local people in need. We averaged 345 pounds of recovered food per game. The most food the team recovered in one game was a total of 522 pounds. What started out as an initiative within the Office of Sustainability turned into an eye-opener for the faculty, staff, students, and Lafayette community attending these games. No one really understood the amount of food being wasted until it was physically seen being wheeled away from concession stands to the donation vehicle. This project made everyone aware of the environmental and community impact of food recovery. Because of the success of this initiative, we now have other university offices asking us about recovering food from more  athletic events and other events on campus, throughout the year. Being involved with this initiative is an amazing experience, and we hope this motivates other FRN chapters to plan something similar on their own campuses.

Chef Hero: A Restaurant's Guide to Going Green

My love for food has brought about many incredible opportunities throughout my life, but most recently it has led me to work at The Dabney, one of the best restaurants in Washington, DC, and for Food Recovery Network as a Food Recovery Verified Fellow. I truly enjoy trying new types of cuisine and experiencing different flavors, but I usually feel deterred from eating out because of my hyper-sensitivity to food waste. While The Dabney boasts highly sustainable practices, this is not the norm in the restaurant industry. If more food establishments took measures to reduce waste and operate sustainably, it would certainly quell my guilty conscious and boost the frequency with which I dine out.

Chef Hero_Report.PNG

In an ideal world, every food establishment would adhere to a zero waste policy, but I know it’s not that simple. With no uniform system of operation and the pressure to simply keep a food business up and running, I’m sure it’s difficult for restaurateurs to think about sustainability. That’s why I am excited to share an amazing (and FREE!) guide produced by ChefHero to help food-service professionals run their establishments more successfully and sustainably! Not only is this guide approachable, but it also provides tangible solutions that can be implemented quickly and easily.

My favorite section is Chapter 9, which focuses on sustainability and offers a step-by-step guide to running an eco-conscious restaurant. Written by Hiba Amin, Marketing Specialist at ChefHero, this chapter covers a wealth of topics surrounding environmental stewardship including ways to reduce your restaurant’s footprint, food safe ways to reuse materials, and tips to improve your recycling program.


Amin touches on water and plastic usage, energy consumption, and recycling programs, but the topic that stood out to me most was food waste. Food waste occurs at every stage of our food system, but in the restaurant industry in particular, there is much improvement to be made. What I love most about this chapter is her ability to take a complex problem like food waste and present a handful of simple recommendations that, when implemented, will lead to long-term financial and environmental benefits for both the business and society as a whole.

In addition to eco-consciousness, this guide covers every facet of building a food business, spanning from pre-launch to running an establishment. Readers will walk away with the tools and information needed to build a successful food venture. I must add, though, that the benefits of reading this guide aren’t exclusive to current or aspiring business owners. If you are a person who likes to dine out, this guide will help you understand the challenges of running a restaurant and equip you with the knowledge to approach your favorite food establishments about small changes that can be made to benefit our food system. I highly encourage everyone to give it a read, check out the free guide here!


Finally, if you are a business owner or a concerned patron interested in implementing a food recovery program for a food establishment, the Food Recovery Verified (FRV) team is here to support you. Through the FRV program, our team recognizes and rewards food businesses that work to fight food waste and feed people through food recovery. FRV serves as a third party which verifies that food businesses are donating surplus food at least once per month to  a hunger fighting non-profit organization. In doing so, we provide resources to food-insecure Americans by increasing national awareness and participation in food recovery programs, and presenting food recovery as a solution to food waste and food insecurity across the country. If you’re interested to learn more about how to start a food recovery program or how to become verified, please contact us at

Sharing Food Recovery Network with Congress

This winter, our Food Recovery Network (FRN) chapter here, at University of California, Davis (UC Davis), was honored to give a presentation about our organization to U.S. Representative Chellie Pingree of Maine. Pingree, who represents Maine’s first district in Congress, is on the forefront of tackling food waste issues. She recently visited UC Davis to give a joint lecture with UC Davis Professor Ned Spang. When Professor Spang invited us to present to Pingree, we were excited to share about our chapter’s recent growth.

FRN at UC Davis began in 2013 as a modest initiative that relied on two interns with serious bike-riding coordination. Since then, we’ve been able to expand with the help of a small electric cart and access to campus vans. We started “Free Farm Fare” last summer, a program where we recover produce from our city’s Saturday farmers markets and deliver the recovered produce to a student family apartment complex. In our six years, we’ve recovered more than 52,000 pounds, nearly 20,000 of which was recovered last quarter alone.


Spang invited Pingree to UC Davis for a lecture titled “From Farm to Table and Back Again: Innovations to Feed More With Less.” It was part of a new series entitled “Savor: Lectures on Food and Wine.” Pingree’s schedule for the day was full: she visited the Student Farm, lunched with administrative leadership, met with UC Davis’ Food Loss and Waste Collaborative, and heard from us.

Upon arrival, we listened to the end of Pingree’s discussion with the Food Loss and Waste Collaborative. The Collaborative is an initiative Spang leads and is designed to be “the gateway between the general public and UC Davis coalitions, organizations, and initiatives addressing food waste and food loss.” The collaborative consists of researchers and UC Davis faculty who work on food issues.

Collaborative members and Pingree discussed the often complicated relationship between industry, consumer, and government in causing food waste, including the impact of consumer habits. We listened as Collaborative members brought up interesting issues and questions, and Pingree explained her own experience on the policy side with her Food Recovery Act and the Farm Bill, as well as the misconception that food is not an important political topic.  


Following this discussion with Food Loss and Waste Collaborative, our six officers were ready to present. We presented to Pingree, Spang, and Jenni Porter, the sustainability manager of student housing, and also presenting with us was Ernst Bertone Oehninger. Oehninger is a UC Davis graduate student and the founder of Freedge, a local and now international food-sharing initiative that we wanted to showcase as another strategy for food recovery.

In our presentation, we covered a brief history of our chapter before going into how we do our work, including recovery and partner agency coordination, the relaunch of our internship program, our education and outreach strategies, and how excited we are about new projects like Free Farm Fare. After our part of the presentation, Oehninger presented about Freedge, particularly the legal problems he has faced and his hopes for food-sharing law changes. All too soon, the presentation was over. There was not time for Pingree to ask us questions, but she did give us a couple of kind comments before we left.  

Evan Dumas from our club was able to talk with Pingree more at a dinner that night. She thanked Dumas for FRN’s work and expressed how impressed she was with the presentation. They talked about how food waste legislation is typically a bipartisan issue; however, not everyone is aware of the issue’s severity.


At our next study hall, we got a chance to reflect on our time with Pingree. Many officers talked about how encouraging the experience had been. We got to see that other people do care, including lawmakers in Congress like Pingree who are working on solving these food issues. FRN is not alone — researchers, professors, and lawmakers also think about food waste and recovery. It was gratifying to meet with those who are addressing the same food issues we do just from different angles.Additionally, practicing the act of articulating and describing what we do was a valuable experience. We bonded as a team as we gained more awareness of each person’s work.


Overall, we are incredibly grateful that we got a chance to meet Representative Pingree. We’re also thankful Professor Spang was able to make all of this happen and for inviting us to present. Lastly, we’d like to thank our interns, volunteers, partner organizations, and supporters, as well as all the lawmakers, researchers, and innovators who are tackling food waste and insecurity problems along with us.

We wish Pingree the best of luck in her food recovery legislation efforts, including: sponsoring the Food Recovery Act and co-sponsoring the Food Donation Act of 2017 and the Green New Deal. She’s accomplished so much already, but she seems to just be getting started. We at UC Davis and FRN support Pingree’s work as we model what food recovery can look like with the right policies to facilitate it.

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.  

Chefs at Bon Appétit at SAP are showing their pride for Chefs to End Hunger by posing with a hunger kit.

Chefs at Bon Appétit at SAP are showing their pride for Chefs to End Hunger by posing with a hunger kit.

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.

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!

Just a taste of the thousands of Chefs to End Hunger boxes you’ll find in one of their warehouses.

Just a taste of the thousands of Chefs to End Hunger boxes you’ll find in one of their warehouses.

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 Program Director 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.

The variety of food is limitless!

The variety of food is limitless!

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.

Folks at Chefs to End Hunger package and prepare the hunger kits to be shipped off to another hunger-fighting nonprofit.

Folks at Chefs to End Hunger package and prepare the hunger kits to be shipped off to another hunger-fighting nonprofit.

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.


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.


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.”  

Nov 15 3.jpeg

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.


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.