“Feeding people, not landfills” is the motto that the Food Recovery Network (FRN) thrives on.
The organization was started by Ben Simon and Mia Zavalij, both students at University of Maryland, in 2001. Simon and Zavalij agree that a big component of practicing sustainability and slowing down global warming is saving food, which would otherwise be wasted, to feed those who are hungry.
The FRN spread across 230 universities in 44 states and has become one of the largest movements against hunger, recovering over two million pounds of food to feed people, not to fill landfills.
Case Western Reserve University joined the FRN bandwagon in 2014.
The recovery project has been instrumental in uniting the CWRU student community with Greater Cleveland. The FRN’s regular recovery projects are done at Leutner Commons, Dunkin’ Donuts, Einstein Bros. Bagels, Greek chapters and various student organizations. The group has also recently started partnering with organizations as large as Cleveland Clinic.
Anyone who participates with the FRN at CWRU works on a shift, which usually last about 15 minutes at a time. Fanny Huang, a fourth-year student, stumbled upon the FRN through a Facebook post that one of her friends was tagged in, and quickly became involved.
Huang describes her experience: “It’s heartwarming to see all the relationships formed through our mission of fighting waste and feeding people.”
Huang said she was excited when Leutner, CWRU’s largest dining hall, began participating with the FRN. In addition, she said that volunteering on Saturdays with the FRN at St. Matthews Hope Soup Kitchen was a memorable experience because she saw people of all ages come for hot meals.
“It’s so unreal the amount of food that can be picked up,” she noted.
Huang would like to see the food recovered by FRN to be more accessible to the campus community, since she believes there is more food insecurity than one might expect. She added that she wishes the accessibility would be like that of grocery stores, so recipients will feel comfortable picking up their food without receiving unwanted attention.
Ramiz Ahmad, a second-year graduate student of medical physiology and a fellow FRN volunteer, also found motivation to join the cause.
He said, “I wanted to better understand the hardships of food insecurities that a concerning amount of Americans struggle with.”
Like Huang, Ahmad’s most memorable experience with the FRN was interacting with the St. Matthews community on Saturdays and learning more about the people he is helping.
“I would love to see [the] FRN spread across universities in the United States,” he said, “so that more communities can have access to food that might have otherwise gone to waste.”