By Anthony Capote
It’s no big secret that college food isn’t always what some students would call “tasty.” In fact, there are some students in some schools who chose to abstain entirely from their college cafeteria. This leads, of course, to a lot of leftover food on the part of dining services that gets thrown out; left to take up space in massive, rotting landfills. Ben Simon, a student at the University of Maryland-College Park took notice of this, along with the fact that 1 in 8 people in the D.C. metropolitan area go hungry each day. Simon decided to take matters into his own hands and gathered a group of students to collect food that dining services were looking to throw away at the end of each day and donated it to local soup kitchens and homeless shelters.
Simon’s innovative and incredibly environmentally friendly take on the issue of urban hunger, quickly caught the attention not only of other colleges and universities but also of some influential groups in the world fight against hunger. In 2011, Simon, along with the other founders of the UMD organization chose to join forces with similar student groups across the nation and formed the Food Recovery Network, with Simon at the helm. In May of 2013 the Sodexo Foundation became involved. The Sodexo Foundation is the not-for-profit branch of its parent company that is responsible for making most of the food for public schools across the nation. The Sodexo Foundation, however, is dedicated to ending child hunger and chose last year to fund the FRN which has allowed Ben Simon and his fellow activists to incorporate and expand the organization.
Currently, the FRN spans 95 chapters in 25 states. The FRN director of communications, Sara Gassman detailed the food collection and donation process. According to Gassman, each food recover center undergoes a brief screening process by the students of the chapter (i.e. can the food center store and serve the food according to safety guidelines) before each day, students pack and deliver the leftover food in aluminum containers to the various homeless shelters and soup kitchens. The food recovery facilities can vary from churches and not-for-profit organizations to government funded homeless shelters.
So how can you get involved? It isn’t difficult to open an new chapter of the Food Recovery Network: simply go the FRN website and fill out your school information to start the process. Be warned, however, that the acceptance process “can take anywhere from two weeks to several months, depending on the rules of the college or university as well as the cooperation of the school dining services.