Hunger for Social Change Inspired by Visit from Food Recovery Network Founder

On Tuesday night, October 22nd, more than 250 Nichols students jammed Daniels Auditorium where they heard the success story of Ben Simon, who shared how and why he created the Food Recovery Network–a revolutionary organization that transfers tons of unused food from almost 100 universities to local non-profits who serve the hungry.

Simon really lit a fire in the first year Nichols College students who are taking a new required course in leadership. Although expected to attend the event, the first year students flocked to Simon following his speech.

In his opening remarks, Simon noted that as much as 40% of food prepared in homes, restaurants, and institutions goes to waste while one in six Americans goes hungry. He passed around an oversized sweet potato to reinforce his point that 20% of fruits and vegetables never leave the farm because they may not look appealing to shoppers.

Simon explained that he and some college friends started the Food Recovery Network when they realized how much food was simply thrown away from the dining halls at the University of Maryland, where he graduated last spring. “We couldn’t believe this food was going to waste while so many people in the community were struggling with hunger,” he recalled.

In the first semester of operation, the Food Recovery Network donated 15,000 pounds of food to local organizations that distributed it to the hungry. Last year, the number of participating colleges jumped from 22 to 98. Over the past three years, the group has donated almost 500,000 pounds of food to participating organizations.

Simon’s vision is to double that number in 2015, and he hopes to start a chapter at Nichols–where leadership opportunities in community service abound. Speaking of leadership, Simon says…

  • “One of the most important qualities of leadership is to be positive and resilient.”
  • “No business ever springs to life without hitting challenges.” (Alluding to his own failed start-up of a social and political network early in his college career. That failure cost him and his backers–mostly family and friends–$80,000, he calculated.)
  • “Embrace ‘epic fails’. It feels bad when your idea doesn’t work out but I wouldn’t have traded that experience for the world.”

His best advice: “Get started early. Throw yourself into something while you’re still a freshman. There’s a learning curve to leadership.”


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