Food Recovery Network

Uniting college students in the
fight against food waste

In the United States, 95 percent of food not consumed isdiscarded in landfills where it breaks down to produce methane, a greenhouse gas more potent than carbon dioxide.

Food Recovery Network was founded in 2011 to mitigate this waste by targeting food disposal on university campuses. Since its inception, Food Recovery Network has rescued more than one million pounds of food and has a presence on 180 college campuses across the United States. Food Recovery Network empowers citizens, communities, and food businesses to reconstruct their perceptions and habits of food surplus.

Food Tank had the opportunity to speak with Cam Pascual, Director of Innovation and Operations, at the Food Recovery Network.

Food Tank (FT): How do you contribute to creating a better food system?

Cam Pascual (CP): Food Recovery Network turns problems into solutions. Problem 1: College campuses send an estimated 22 million pounds of quality surplus food to landfills each year. Problem 2: One in six Americans don't know where their next meal is coming from. Problem 3: College students need opportunities for meaningful service work. FRN combines these problems and turns them into one high-impact, simple solution. We unite college students at universities across the country in collecting the surplus food from their campuses and donating it to local hunger-fighting non-profits.

FT: What is a project, program, or result you are most proud of?

CP: In under four years, Food Recovery Network went from a student group at the University of Maryland to a national nonprofit with programming at 150 schools in 36 states across the country that has so far recovered over 650,000 meals that would have otherwise been thrown away.

FT: What are your goals for this year and beyond?

CP: We plan to expand our programming beyond college campuses in coming years. We've already put higher education on track to be the first sector in which food recovery is the norm–not the exception. For 2015 and beyond we plan to expand our work to even more colleges across the country. We also offer consulting services for businesses interested in starting up their own food recovery programs, and our Food Recovery Certified program certifies businesses that do the right thing by donating their surplus food, letting consumers know where to spend their money if they care about food recovery.

FT: In one sentence, what is the most important thing eaters and consumers can do today to support a more sustainable food system?

CP: Eaters and consumers should only buy as much food as they’ll consume.

FT: How can individuals become more involved in your organization?

CP: Interested college students can either start a chapter on their campus, and others can spread the word about FRN via social media, volunteer with a local chapter, or host a fundraiser to help support the work we do. We want people to start demanding food recovery–at the restaurants they visit, in their grocery stores, at their office cafeterias–because there’s no reason for us to be wasting 40 percent of the food we produce while so many Americans don’t know where their next meal is coming from.

The James Beard Foundation and Food Tank, along with a prestigious advisory group of food system experts, developed the Good Food Org Guide. This definitive Guide highlighted nonprofit organizations that are doing exemplary work in the United States in the areas of food and agriculture, nutrition and health, hunger and obesity, and food justice.

The above article by Emma Tozer first published on in 2016.