Lauren Begham '15

FOOD RECOVERY NETWORK

Food Recovery Network (FRN) is a national nonprofit that empowers and unites university students to rescue surplus edible food that would have been thrown away and transport it to shelters in their communities. Started in September of 2011, FRN has recovered over 120,000 pounds of food on 13 different university campuses. Expansion has been successful, but a lack of an organization-wide food safety curriculum has been recognized as a barrier to further expansion. Another barrier to expansion has been a lack of sustainable financial funding. My project will create a uniform food safety training and certification program for FRN volunteers as well as an earned-income model for the organization to build its capacity and make its practices more sustainable.

Personal statement

Cecilia, which is my middle name, is also the name of my maternal grandmother. My grandmother has had a tremendous influence on my life and she is the personal motivation for why I work with FRN. She was born in in 1921 to a single, working mother and she lived in and out of homelessness as her mother struggled to make ends meet for her and her three younger siblings. Finding enough food was a constant struggle. When she was eighteen she married my grandfather, who served as an army cook in World War II. In 1969, they opened a Mexican restaurant together in Dallas, Texas.

I grew up spending a lot of time in my grandparent's restaurant, which is still run by my family today. During my adolescence, my grandmother always stressed the importance of not wasting food because there were many others who did not have enough. My grandparents taught me that there is a stigma about homelessness and hunger in this country because anyone can be homeless, regardless of their personal merits or history. They inspired me to volunteer at Seven Loaves Food Pantry in high school, where I prepared food and handed out meals to the hungry. Through my volunteer work and my education at Brown I have gained a broader understanding of hunger on a societal scale, and this increased understanding as well as my personal history inspire me to do the work that I do with FRN. 

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