Food Recovery Network

The Lempert Report
September 18, 2014

The Food Recovery Network is a network of college chapters whose mission is simple: to direct surplus food from college campuses to hungry Americans.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, more food reaches landfills and incinerators than any other single material in municipal solid waste. Data collected from 2012 showed that more than 36 million tons of food waste was generated, with only five percent diverted from landfills and incinerators for composting. With such staggering numbers in mind, some of the countries young thinkers are taking action. 

The Food Recovery Network is a network of college chapters whose mission is simple: to direct surplus food from college campuses to hungry Americans, instead of to landfills. An innovative solution from some innovative young minds:


The Food Recovery Network is a non profit that tries to bring together college students, across the country to fight food waste. So, the idea is to have students recovering food from their dining hall, from their restaurants, and donate that food to communities that need it most.  40% of america's food goes to waste and our best conservative estimate is that on college campuses 22 million pounds of food go to waste every year and 1 in 6 american's are hungry so there is this huge discrepancy that exists, and so the great thing about the food recovery network is that it's a solvable issue…it's the surplus food, which is obvious because we're just throwing it away. 

Phil But with the issue of food safety, this innovative business idea took some convincing to get off the ground

Marlene So initially there was some resistance with dining services and the resistance is generally a food safety issues, so people think that if they donate food and if people get sick from that food then they are going to be held liable. but the good samaritan act actually prevents you from being held liable so informing dining halls of that policy really quelled their concerns. 

I think everybody benefits from the program, Food Recovery Network is completely student driven and so the students are getting that experience, that leadership experience,and then the partner agencies like the soup kitchen they're getting this free surplus of food, and then the people who need it are getting the food and since it started in 2011 we have recovered 435,000 pounds of food. And if you use the Feeding America conversion to meals, which is about 1.25 pounds per meal, that's 350,000 meals. 

For this next year we're trying to get a total of 150 chapters and recover a total of 610,000 pounds of food. and long term our goal is to have food recovery be the norm on college campuses so we can look back on this and say ' duh, it makes so much sense."