The Food Recovery Network (FRN) was founded by five University of Maryland-Dearborn students in 2011, after seeing how much food waste their university produced. They have since expanded their operation to 49 states, with multiple chapters in each. St. Olaf gained its chapter in 2015 and has acquired a plethora of inspired members. The current executive board—Maureen Bowen ‘26, Luke Gregory ‘25, Alia McLaughlin ‘25, Zachary Seid-Phan ‘23, and Nanna Gailiun ‘23 — joined the FRN after seeing the copious amounts of waste that St. Olaf produces daily.
The work is straightforward – if organizations request meals or ingredients, the food is packaged (in disposable or reusable containers, depending on the type of food requested) at the end of the day by servers and taken to carts and coolers in Buntrock. Each Monday and Tuesday, Bon Appetit or Carleton drivers will transport the food to the Northfield Community Action Center or the Area Learning Center. The effect is staggering. In recording their shifts, the FRN estimates they deliver 80 to 100 meals daily. It is daunting to think about how much more would be wasted if this organization had not expanded to St. Olaf.
Mclaughlin wishes to further the reach of St Olaf’s chapter as well as their funding. Recently, the St. Olaf chapter has been working with environmental studies students on their recovery shifts, as well as a partnership with the Carleton chapter. “We’re so grateful to Carleton for working with us,” said McLaughlin, “but there’s so much more we can be doing.”
In a 2022 report, the FDA found that almost 40 percent of food in the United States goes uneaten, with college campuses contributing 22 million pounds of food waste annually. The information is sobering, especially when one reflects on the trash cans piled with food on the way out of Stav Hall. But the FRN is certainly on track to reduce this waste and tackle food insecurity in Northfield.