By Hannah Cather, Food Recovery Network Program Manager

The United States’ food system is being undermined by a serious problem: while 48.1 million Americans experience food insecurity each year, nearly 40% of food produced in the US goes to waste. Food waste is a social and economic loss, costing Americans $218 billion every year. It’s also one of the world’s worst environmental hazards. According to a United Nations report, the contribution of food wastage emissions to global warming is almost equivalent (87%) to global land transport emissions.

While other social and environmental issues can seem unsolvable for local communities, eliminating food waste is an issue that we can work to solve in our lifetimes. Nearly 85% of food waste in the United States is created in homes and consumer-facing businesses, where we as individuals can have a direct impact. According to ReFED, food recovery is one of the most effective methods of reducing food waste; experts estimate that food recovery efforts can divert 1.1 million tons of waste annually, and increase food donations to non-profits by nearly 1.8 billion meals.

At Food Recovery Network (FRN), we believe that healthy communities are built on sustainable, equitable food systems – and the enormous amount of food waste generated each year undermines our cities’ environmental and social resilience. Our model of food recovery provides an alternative to the current norm of food waste in the US, where businesses routinely dispose of quality uneaten food.

Our model is simple, fast and results in immediate positive impact for our students and for those who receive the food. Students recover surplus food from restaurants and their college dining halls and donate it to hunger-fighting non-profits in their communities. With mentorship from FRN staff, student leaders recruit volunteers, coordinate with dining providers to implement a process for recovering would-be wasted food, and build partnerships with local nonprofits who distribute donations to community members facing hunger. This model changes behavior at all levels: businesses become more aware of the items they waste, leading them to reduce their food orders, and students act upon their consumer responsibility to reduce food waste.

In just six years, FRN’s model has spread to more than 200 campuses in 44 states and the District of Columbia – and on average, we engage and train more than 5,000 volunteers in our mission annually. To date, FRN has recovered more than 2.7 million pounds of food, which translates into over 2.2 million meals for food insecure individuals and families.

FRN creates critical connections in communities nationwide to alleviate food insecurity and hunger, mitigate the environmental consequences of food waste, and empower students as the next generation of social and environmental leaders. With food recovery as our catalyst, FRN is transforming the way Americans interact with food, one another, and the environment.

Join the movement by submitting a new chapter application today. Whether you actively work with student leaders already or need guidance to recruit changemakers, FRN has the skills and resources to support you.

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