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Developing New Solutions With Food Recovery Network

by Regina Northouse, Executive Director, Food Recovery Network

File_000 (1)Food Recovery Network (FRN) is the largest student movement against food waste and hunger in America. FRN unites and empowers college students to recover surplus food from their campus dining halls and surrounding food businesses and donate that food to hunger-fighting nonprofits who feed those most in need. With 230 university chapters across the country and growing, FRN’s goal is to support higher education in being the first sector where food recovery is the norm and not the exception. Through the power of highly motivated student leaders, FRN has recovered and donated more than 2.1 million pounds of food since 2011.

FRN positively impacts our communities. Our student leaders support over 350 hunger-fighting partners including homeless shelters, food banks and food pantries, providing them with wholesome, nutritious meals to give to their clients.

The U.S. food system is marked by an alarming paradox: nearly 40% of food produced in the US goes to waste, while 48.1 million Americans experience food insecurity each year, one out of seven of whom are children (NRDC 2016; USDA 2015).

Food Recovery Network was formed in 2011 by college students at the University of Maryland who wanted to address these issues of food waste and food insecurity, and their social and environmental impacts. These impacts include wasting 23% of potable water and 18% of valuable cropland, as well as emitting methane into the atmosphere, contributing to the rise of greenhouse gas emissions and global climate change.

What sets FRN apart, is our innovative model which empowers and educates young leaders and breaks down barriers between college campuses by helping students develop new solutions to problems in their communities, to connect with nonprofits in their area and help and build relationships with their neighbors who also happen to be in need. Through our model, our civic-minded student leaders gain confidence in their own abilities to challenge the status quo and fight for what is right.

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Food Recovery Network is a national nonprofit that applies local solutions to specific communities to ensure surplus food gets to those who need it most. I know I speak for my amazing team at FRN headquarters in College Park, Maryland, when I say we are continually inspired by our hard-working student leaders all over the country.

Many of FRN’s students often do more than volunteer with their FRN chapter. Our students pursue other opportunities in the food recovery movement, such as gleaning from local farms, recovering nonperishable food items during the days when students on their college campus move out for the semester, and participate in summer recoveries. The student leaders also volunteer with the nonprofit where they donate their surplus food by tutoring, preparing and serving meals and helping with cleanup initiatives.

We talk to our leaders all the time and there are so many inspiring stories. Actually, when asked about her relationship with her chapter’s partner nonprofit, one student from Michigan said, “Every time I brought food to our partner agency, I would meet one of the residents and they would be so kind and grateful! I loved being a part of this amazing organization and movement! It has made me realize that I want to incorporate more awareness and advocacy in my future career.”

Recently, we were told by an FRN alum that one of her limiting criteria for searching for which grad schools she wanted to apply to was whether that the school had an FRN chapter so she could remain engaged as a graduate student.

At the heart of what drives FRN to pursue the work we do is two things. First, being able to provide a source of nutritious food to those who would otherwise not have access. We’re here to be part of our communities. Second, we want to change behavior to reduce food waste at the source post production. This is one of the highest instances of food waste (versus food wasting on the vine for example). We don’t want to overproduce food in order to donate it, we want to ensure good food isn’t wasted to begin with, and when there happens to be surplus, which, let’s be honest, much of the time there will be, that food should feed our fellow neighbors in need.

In addition to recovering food from their campuses, students have the opportunity to volunteer their time with the hunger-fighting partners and the individuals they serve, highlighted by Lighthouse Outreach Ministries, “Everyone likes to see the college kids ride up! The homeless have families that they are separated from and it makes everyone smile to know they are not invisible.”

FRN is dedicated to continuing our work in the food recovery space and to expand the movement, as we continue to provide support and resources for driven, civic-minded students seeking opportunities to engage with their communities and build their leadership skills. I look forward to collaborating and partnering with individuals and other organizations to move the needle on the issue of food waste and food loss. I hope those reading this post know they can be part of the conversation with us!

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FRN hopes to see our network expand to 350 chapters across the country, and our ability to recover 1 million pounds of perfectly good food year-over-year. We’re working to expand our Food Recovery Verified (FRV) program that recognizes and rewards food businesses of any type that are working to fight waste and feed people through food recovery. FRV serves as a third party that verifies that food businesses are donating surplus food to hunger fighting non-profits. We list those businesses on our website, we have a communications strategy to give voice to those businesses, and each business receives a window sticker to display on their doors or on marketing materials to tell patrons their business does the right thing with their surplus food. To date, FRN has over 90 food businesses that have been verified including Adidas, Zulily, and Twitter Inc.

Success is when each point within our food system has decreased food waste by implementing better practices to avoid overproduction of food–meaning at the farm level, the producer and purchasing level, at the retail level and individual consumer level. I know that as this conversation takes hold in the consciousness of more people, FRN is part of that behavior change.

Success is having the proper logistics in place for when there is surplus food to properly and effectively distribute that food to those who need it most across the country. We also want our student leaders to be part of the full process. Our students are the future entering into literally every sector in our country as business owners, chefs, teachers, engineers, technicians and farmers who all share the FRN experience. That experience has shaped their thinking about their ability to positively impact the lives of their community members, as well as how to reduce food waste. That’s the FRN lens. We want that FRN voice to continue to speak even once our students have graduated from college.

A great day at FRN features our small but mighty team at the national office working to support and expand the national network. That includes connecting with existing chapters on the phone, social media, emails and getting them what they need to go out and recover, or move closer to achieving their newest goals for the semester.

FRN works closely with our hunger-fighting partners collecting vital information, analyzing it, and then passing along new resources to our chapter leaders. At FRN, we’re constantly refining our work–what can we do better, what have we learned from our previous projects, what didn’t we do well, and where did we knock it out of the park?

As we grow, how we scale has to change, and how are we addressing those needs? Hearing the hum of our feedback loop in the office–during our project planning meetings is important, too. Additionally, our staff works with non-university food businesses that recover food to recognize them for their efforts and inspire other businesses to begin recovering through our Food Recovery Verified program.

All of these variations operations take place in our national office, made possible by our dedicated, passionate, and collaborative staff!

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There are plenty of ways to be involved, and we need you to be involved with us!

  • FRN welcomes all interested volunteers, including non-students, to help out with their local chapters!
  • Non-student volunteers are encouraged to reach out to their local chapter leaders, as many chapters seek the help of additional volunteers as drivers or mentors, if not during the actual recoveries as well. A list of chapters by state and their respective chapter leaders, contact information can be accessed here.
  • The national office is always here to make connections, too. FRN national is setting up gleaning dates throughout the fall in and around the Washington DC, Maryland and Virginia area. We would love for you to help us recover perfectly good food right at the farm!Contact our national office now to put your name on the list for more information.
  • Help us expand! If you’re alma mater isn’t on the FRN map and you know students who attend and would make a great leader, put them in touch with us! Students can start by filling out our very short application.
  • Support our second annual National Food Recovery Dialogue. This is our annual conference that brings together our student leaders, industry experts, and community members to put into context the bigger picture of our work, and is a space to roll up our sleeves to problem solve on-the-ground problems, share resources, and break bread with one another.
  • Have some fun and start a “Zero Waste Challenge” for FRN. That can mean reducing your waste by eliminating plastic straws from your daily use, or paper napkins like our national board member Jessica did, or it could mean trying to go completely zero waste like our other national board member, Claire did. Anyone can do it, and it’s quite the amazing experience!
  • If you have an expertise that you think can help FRN, please reach out to us. We’re growing and need dedicated support in several areas. Please contact FRN headquarters by emailing or phone +1 (240) 615-8813 with any questions, or to be involved.

Metro Shutdown Brings New Riders to Local Roads (and Trails!)

Last week the region watched — and waited — to see how the news of WMATA’s Metro shutdown would affect daily commutes. With more than 700,000 daily riders on metro trains, most riders who were unable to telework were left to take to the roads by bus or by car. But for one local organization, the shutdown was an opportunity to bring attention to another commuting alternative: bicycling!

Following last week’s announcement, Washington Area Bicyclist Association and its supporters sprang into action, encouraging commuters to give biking a try through guided bike pools across the region (#WMATAbikepool), distributing maps and tips on their blog, and meeting riders on local trails.

We caught up with Colin Browne, Communications Coordinator at WABA, to learn how they organized efforts so quickly following the news of the shutdown, and how they plan to carry this momentum forward through 2016 and beyond.

bikeawesomeHow did the concept for #WMATAbikepool start?

Colin: In the WABA office, as soon as we heard about the Metro shutdown, we knew it was going to be a big day for bike commuters, and more specifically, a big day for people to feel good about biking to work. We wanted to harness that enthusiasm before it just curdled into traffic schadenfreude. I put together a quick blog post and some social media posts that I hoped would set a welcoming tone for the conversation (especially on Twitter, which can drift into cynicism very quickly) and encourage folks to reach out to their coworkers and neighbors.

The idea for the #WMATAbikepool hashtag came from a member of our Women & Bicycles Facebook group named Anita Kinney, who used it and suggested that others do the same.

I think the hashtag worked because it was a grassroots idea that WABA was able to amplify. These sorts of campaigns, even when they happen very quickly, feel so much more organic when an organization can say “look at this cool thing that people are doing” rather than “You should use this hashtag.” It really provides an opportunity for people to feel good about the community that they’re a part of, instead of just having a logo and acronym telling them what to do.

Do you have a favorite “rider moment” from the day?

Colin: We set up a table to give away coffee and granola bars on the Met Branch Trail in Eckington. I showed up with my camera, planning to take a few photos of a busy trail and then head back to the office. I ended up staying for three and half hours and only took a dozen pictures because there were so many happy people to talk to. Data from DDOT said that biking on the trail was up 65%, and we gave away three times as much coffee as we normally do at our trailside coffee events.

My favorite rider moment was chatting with a woman who’d stopped for some coffee and was commuting on her bike for the first time. She had ridden twelve miles in from her home in Forest Glen on the Sligo Creek Trail. It was the longest ride she’d ever done, and she was beaming! She said she was already excited for the ride home.

Were there any big takeaways/key lessons that WABA learned on this day?

Colin: The experience really drove home how important it is to be able to not just react, but engage quickly with an opportunity like this. This could easily have been a situation where we pushed out some some generic, one-way content about biking to work and left it at that. Instead we had an authentic community moment that really let people feel how powerful their own energy and enthusiasm is.

What big projects is WABA currently working on?

Colin: We just finished off a yearlong strategic planning process and published a 5 year strategic plan. Out topline goals are to triple the number of people who ride bikes in the region by 2020, and ensuring that, by 2035, every resident in the region (we work in DC, Prince George’s County, Montgomery County, Arlington, Alexandria, and Fairfax County) lives within 1 mile of a protected place to ride a bike.

To find out how you can get involved with WABA, visit

Do More 24

There’s still time! Nonprofit organizations across the region are participating in DoMore24 (until midnight tonight!) a day of giving towards community causes. So many of “the best” charities featured in the Catalogue are raising funds today — for soccer uniforms, to publish teen authored books, to provide legal services to homeless individuals and low-income refugees and so much more.

Need some inspiration? Check out our listing of great nonprofits here!

And as a bonus, several of our charities have matching funds to double the impact of your gift today. Take a look at these Catalogue charities, listed by category:





2nd Celebration of Catalogue Reviewers & Charities

On Tuesday, June 17th the Catalogue celebrated our 2014 reviewers and newest class of charities at a reception in the Clarendon Ballroom. With a warm welcome to all from Catalogue Board Treasurer, Tom Raffa — who makes the financial review possible year after year — this event recognized the incredible dedication of our 120+ person review team and welcomed the charities they selected for the upcoming 2014/15 Catalogue, 26 of whom are brand new to the Catalogue network.

In a special presentation, President & Editor Barbara Harman honored several long-standing reviewers who have given over a decade of service to the Catalogue — including Oramenta Newsome (LISC DC), who has participated in all 12 years of the Catalogue’s review since our inception in 2003! Reviewers Bob Wittig (Jovid Foundation), Julia Baer Cooper (Lois & Richard England Family Foundation) and Silvana Straw (Community Foundation for the National Capital Region) were recognized for 11 years of service, and Suzanne Martin (formerly of the Fowler Foundation) received the “above and beyond” award in recognition of the quality & quantity of her thoughtful reviews over the past six years. The Catalogue is made possible by our program and financial reviewers and we were so pleased to have so many join us and meet the Class of 2014/15!

A huge thanks to our host and long time friend Sandra Hoehne at the Clarendon Ballroom, our nonprofit representatives, our reviewers, the Catalogue Board and special friends of the Catalogue from the Meyer Foundation, the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, the J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation, the Cohen Foundation and the Otto Whalley Foundation. Thanks to everyone in attendance for making this our best celebration yet, and stay tuned for updates as our production process leads us to the release of the Catalogue on November 1st!

President Barbara Harman presents awards to Bob Wittig, Silvana Straw, and Julia Baer Cooper for 11 years of Service


President Barbara Harman with 12-year reviewer Oramenta Newsome

Reflections from the Road: Holiday Journeys and #GivingTuesday

As we prepare for the holidays – packing suitcases, loading up the car, battling traffic or airport lines – it seems that the process of getting to our destination has become as much a part of holiday tradition as turkey, stuffing and that awkward annual dinner toast from a distant relative.

This inevitable “are we there yet?” mentality stretches beyond just the holiday travel season — it extends to our personal goals, career objectives and other milestones in life. Yet, while we’re on these personal journeys, it’s important that we use this time of year to stop and reflect — here, in this moment — on the things that have brought us to where we are today…and be thankful.

This Tuesday, December 3rd, #GivingTuesday gives us that unique opportunity after both Thanksgiving and the holiday shopping that follows to further reflect on all that we’ve been given, and turn our gratitude into impact.

As an official #GivingTuesday partner, the Catalogue for Philanthropy encourages you to reflect and re-think your approach to holiday shopping: as you shop for loved ones this year during the sales on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, turn your pennies saved into pennies…given.

With the Catalogue’s #APennySaved campaign, think about using your holiday shopping savings to lift up those in need in our community through your support of our 350+ local, vetted charities (You can learn more about them and give at Use the money you save on items purchased this holiday weekend to change your community for good.

This holiday season, travel safely, reflect on the journey, and give thanks by giving back.



Around Town 10/25-10/31

We are in the final stretch of October (can you believe it?)! See what these great nonprofits are doing to help October go out with a bang! Continue reading

Around Town: 10/18-10/24

With Fall in full swing, our nonprofits are getting busy! See what great events you can head to in the upcoming week. Are you a current Catalogue nonprofit with an event to promote? Make sure to put it in your portal so you can see your event in an upcoming Around Town! Continue reading

Around Town: 10/11-10/17

No matter what type of event you are looking to head to this weekend, the events featured below will all help you make a difference in your community. See what you can do to give back to great nonprofits in your own backyard. Continue reading

Around Town: 10/4-10/10

Are you a golfer that is looking to support a good cause while still working on your golf game? Or are you a non-golfer (like me), who just likes to get out and support local nonprofits? If so, Rebuilding Together Montgomery County has a great event for you!

Monday, October 07, 2013

RTMC Golf Classic

Rebuilding Together Montgomery County
The RTMC Golf Classic brings together motivated golfers and socially responsible businesses, joining hands to take a swing at providing low-income homeowners with the help they need to live in safe and healthy homes. While enjoying a day out on the green, golfers have the opportunity to network with other professionals and commit their resources in support of our community and its most vulnerable residents. This year, corporate executives, civic leaders, skilled trades professionals, and community leaders will come together again to support Rebuilding Together Montgomery County and the work we do across this region. Lunch, goody bags, and course beverages will be provided, as will many opportunities to enhance your game play and score! Once again, there will be a Harley Davidson on the course just waiting for the talented golfer to get a Hole-in-One! After the tournament, players will enjoy dinner and a silent auction while awaiting word of the victors. Prizes are available for game and tournament winners.
When: Monday, October 7, 2013 (10:00 AM – 7:00 PM)
Where: Whiskey Creek Golf Club – Ijamsville, MD, 4804 Whiskey Court, Ijamsville, MD 21754
Fee? :yes Volunteers are free; golfing begins at $250, sponsorships begin at $150
Volunteer Info: Register Golfers, Sell Raffle Tickets, Host Games
Contact: Lee-Berkeley Shaw, (301) 933-2700 ext 307
For more information: click here


Remember: if you are a current Catalogue nonprofit, we would love to post your events and volunteer opportunities! Make sure to put them in through your portal and they will go out not only on our site, but on our blog as well! If you have any questions about how to access your portal or posting events and volunteer opportunities, email our Community Partnerships Coordinator Jenn Hatch at

Around Town: September 20-26

The weather may be cooling down, but our nonprofits are just heating up! Check out these great events put on by some of our wonderful Catalogue nonprofits. Heading out to one of these events? Let us know on Facebook, Twitter, or by email at!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

VolunTrivia 3.0

Volunteer Fairfax
Join Volunteer Fairfax and compete for hundreds of dollars worth of prizes at VolunTrivia: live, MC-hosted team trivia! Teams of up to 6 players will compete for a chance to win the $200 1st place prize as well as over $300 in other prizes. Join us on Saturday, September 21st at Bennigan’s in McLean to test your knowledge, enjoy special happy hour specials, and support volunteering. To compete, you must pre-register. All registrants will have the option to play on your selected team (of up to 6 people), play solo, or ask to be placed on a pick-up team.
When: Saturday, September 21, 2013 (1:00 PM – 4:00 PM)
Where: Bennigan’s, 8201 Greensboro Drive, McLean, VA 22102
Fee?: yes $25 team; $10 individuals
Contact: Emily Davis, (703) 246-3892
For more information: click here

Monday, September 23, 2013

You’re Invited to Coffee Talk with Jubilee Jobs

Jubilee Jobs
Last year, Jubilee Jobs helped 1,000 people obtain employment. Want to know how we do it? Want to help us place 1,000 more people in jobs this year? Then join us on September 23rd at The Festival Center, 1640 Columbia Rd NW at 8:30 am. We need your help to assist the unemployed in the community. Come and hear applicant testimonials, meet our Executive Director Terry Flood, learn more about our volunteer opportunities, and join others who want to make a real difference and help others in the community. Please call ahead of time at (202) 667-8970 so we know to look for you.
When: Monday, September 23, 2013 (08:30 AM)
Where: The Festival Center, 1640 Columbia Road, NW, Washington, DC 20009
Fee?: no
Contact: Sheila Robinson, (202) 667-8970

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

WILL Power Party

Wilderness Leadership & Learning
A special cocktail reception to highlight the positive impact WILL makes in the lives of the DC youth from underserved neighborhoods and to honor the WILL Partner of the Year – Rachel Skerritt, Principal of Eastern High School
When: Wednesday, September 25, 2013 (6:00 PM – 9:00 PM)
Where: Pepco Edison Place Gallery, 702 8th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20001
Fee?: yes $75 per person
Contact: Steve Abraham, (202) 319-2
For more information: click here

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Leave a Legacy Dinner and Roast for ANS Volunteers, Staff, and Former Staff

Audubon Naturalist Society
Long-time ANS support and current Executive Director, Neal Fitzpatrick, plans to retire in September after 33 years of service. Since Neal has been such a passionate advocate for protecting our local water resources and natural spaces, it seems fitting that his legacy include a fund established in his name that would support the mobilization of people of all ages to protect and restore streams in the greater DC region. To honor Neal and to build his Legacy Fund, we have planned a number of festive events! Join us for a farewell dinner to Neal on Thursday, September 26th, at 5:30pm at Woodend Sanctuary. All ANS Volunteers and current and former staff members are invited. Dinner and drinks will be served. There is a suggested donation of $15 per person (all of which is a tax-deductible gift). RSVP by Friday, September 20th, to Pam Oves at or 301-652-9188 x16. We hope to see you there!
When: Thursday, September 26, 2013 (5:30 PM)
Where: Woodend Sanctuary, 8940 Jones Mill Road, Chevy Chase, MD 20815
Fee?: yes $15 suggested donation (fully tax-deductible)
Contact: Pam Oves, (301) 652-9188 ext 16
For more information: click here