Food Tank recently had the opportunity to speak with Ben Simon, Founder and Executive Director of the Food Recovery Network, who was one of the speakers at the 2015 Food Tank Summit in partnership with The George Washington University.
Food Tank (FT): What will your message be at the Food Tank Summit?
Ben Simon (BS): America grows enough food each year to feed everyone. Food waste is one of America’s biggest environmental issues in the food system, as America wastes 40 percent of its food while 1 in 6 Americans go hungry. If America reduced food waste by just 15 percent, it would cut hunger in half, according to the N ational Resources Defense Council.
FT: How are you contributing to building a better food system?
BS: My co-founders and I started Food Recovery Network in September 2011 to recover the surplus food from campus dining halls and local restaurants near our college campuses. We’ve now grown the movement to 111 colleges in 31 states, and have recovered and donated over 600,000 pounds of food that otherwise would have gone to waste. We also recently launched Food Recovery Certified, America’s first and only certification program recognizing food businesses that donate their surplus food instead of wasting it.
FT: What are the biggest obstacles or challenges you face in achieving your organization’s goals?
BS: The number one obstacle is that most managers at restaurants, dining halls, grocery stores, and other food businesses have never heard of the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act, which protects good faith food donors from liability. People in management positions with the power to recover food typically don’t because they are afraid of getting sued, or are unaware it often helps their bottom line. A lot of our work is educational.
FT: Who is your food hero and why?
BS: My food hero is a local pastor in Prince George’s County, Maryland named Pastor Ben Slye. Pastor Ben runs a local food recovery program that distributes 30,000 pounds of fresh produce each week to families in need. He leads with his heart, and is really inspirational.
FT: In 140 characters or less what is the most important thing we can all do to help change the food system?
BS: Tell one college student to bring Food Recovery Network to their campus to feed people, not landfills.