Every year one-third of all food – or 1.3 million tons- is lost or wasted, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization. In the U.S. alone, food waste totals nearly 40 million tons of food annually.
Three years ago, three college students at the University of Maryland noticed how much leftover food was being thrown away each day in the cafeteria. As a result, they decided to start the Food Recovery Network.By getting student groups to volunteer at least one night a week and working with Dining Services, they were able to recover 45 – 90 kilograms (100-200 lbs.) of food per night and donate it to local shelters and food kitchens.
Since 2010, they have expanded their mission and want to create food recovery programs on every college campus in the United States – especially since 75 percent of college campuses do not currently have a food recovery program. The Food Recovery Network’s goal is two-fold: to prevent waste and provide nutritious meals. Already, the group has recovered 54,878 kilograms (120,987 lbs.) of food with the help of more than 350 volunteers across 18 campuses.
“We want to be one of the leaders of the building food waste movement in this country, “ says Ben Chesler, Director of Member Support. “Food waste needs to be on the national agenda and we want to get our message in front of today’s leaders.”
And the Food Recovery Network has already been successful in spreading their message. They won the $5,000 grand prize in Kevin Bacon’s Do Good Challenge and the $15,000 national grand prize in the Banking on Youth competition. With partnerships with Bon Appétit Management Company and Sodexo in the works, the Food Recovery Network will likely achieve their goal of nationwide expansion in the near future.
“Our main focus is on college campuses for the moment, as that’s where we started. Down the road, we’d like to cluster schools together and reach beyond campuses to offer food recovery to communities as well, “Chesler added. And they don’t plan to stop until there is zero food waste on our nation’s college campuses.