Some folks think that people are homeless and hungry as a result of poor decisions. But with 42 million people going hungry across the US, there are obviously much bigger factors at play. What are people doing to find a solution?
Food Recovery Network is partnering with universities in 46 states to bring perfectly good cafeteria food — that would normally get thrown away — to hungry communities. It was started by four university students who saw food that could be purchased at 4:59 getting tossed into the garbage at 5:01. Why not use it to feed people? Since then, it’s grown into a nationwide effort to reduce food waste and help struggling communities.
In this episode of the Gooder Podcast, Diana Fryc is joined by Regina Anderson, Executive Director of the Food Recovery Network, to discuss how they’re stopping hunger across the country. Regina talks about the reality of food deserts, why we should refrain from judging the poor, and how she found a passion for nonprofits.
In this episode we learn:
- Regina Anderson explains the roots of Food Recovery Network
- How much food is their team recovering?
- The real problem of food deserts
- How is CPG contributing to the cause?
- Challenges at Food Recovery Network
- How did Regina discover her passion for helping the hungry?
- Being poor isn’t an indicator of poor life decisions
- Regina’s path into the nonprofit world
- How is Regina approaching diversity and inclusion at Food Recovery Network?
- Regina’s advice: try a variety of job roles, perfection is not the goal, and learn about finances
- It’s simple to be part of the solution — do something today
About Regina Anderson:
Regina Anderson is the Executive Director of Food Recovery Network, the largest student-led movement fighting food waste and working to end hunger in America. Regina joined the team in 2015 and is responsible for setting the vision, strategy, and fundraising efforts for Food Recovery Network. She works with stakeholders, partners, and the team at national headquarters to make food recovery the norm and not the exception.
Regina has worked in the nonprofit sector for over a decade. At the Coro Center for Civic Leadership in Pittsburgh, she worked with employers in all sectors to establish internship programs and to match talented individuals with those opportunities. At Independent Sector and LIFT in Washington, DC, Regina worked to raise awareness of the nonprofit sector’s abilities to solve society’s most complex issues.
Guests Social Media Links:
- Regina Anderson on LinkedIn
- Regina Anderson on Twitter
- Food Recovery Network
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Katie Jones on LinkedIn
- Perteet Spencer on LinkedIn
- AYO Foods
- The Farmlink Project
- Matriark Foods
- Delancey Street Foundation
- Natural Resources Defense Council
- Danielle Nierenberg on LinkedIn
- Food Tank
- Dana Gunders on LinkedIn
- Diana Fryc on LinkedIn
- Retail Voodoo
Sponsor for this episode…
This episode is brought to you by Retail Voodoo.
Retail Voodoo has been building beloved and dominant brands in the food, wellness, beverage, and fitness CPG industries for over 30 years. They’ve served multinational companies like PepsiCo. and Starbucks, startups like High Key, and everything in between.
Their proven process guides hundreds of mission-driven consumer brands to attract a broad and passionate fan base, crush their categories through growth and innovation, and magnify their social and environmental impact.
So, if you are ready to find a partner that will help your business create a high-impact strategy that gives your brand an advantage, Retail Voodoo is here to help.
Welcome to the Gooder Podcast where we talk with powerhouse women in CPG about their journeys to success. This episode is sponsored by Retail Voodoo. A brand development firm guiding mission driven consumer brands to attract new and passionate consumer base crush their categories through growth and innovation and magnify their social and environmental impact. If your brand is in need of brand positioning, package design or marketing activation, we are here to help. You can find more information at www.retail-voodoo.com.
Diana Fryc 0:46
Hi, Diana Fryc here I am the host of the Gooder Podcast where I get to talk with the powerhouse women in the food, beverage and wellness categories about their journeys to success and their insights on the industry. Thanks for joining us today. Really quick This episode is brought to you by Retail Voodoo Retail we do as a brand development firm. Our clients include Starbucks kind Rei, PepsiCo, highkey, and many other market leaders. We provide strategic brand and design services for leading brands in the food, wellness, beverage and fitness industries. If your goal is to increase market, share, drive growth or disrupt the marketplace with new and innovative ideas. Give us a call. Let’s talk you can visit Retail-Voodoo.com or email me at email@example.com for more. Now before we get to meet our guests officially I’d like to just do a quick shout out to miss Perteet Spencer of AYO foods who made this introduction happen. AYO foods has introduced the love of West African food to American freezers. Quick, easy, healthy meals that will delight the foodies and food explorers alike. Learn more about what Perteet and AYO are up to at ayo-foods.com. AYO, we love you. So today we get to meet Miss Regina Anderson, who is the Executive Director of the Food Recovery Network where she is responsible for setting the vision strategy and all fundraising efforts. Is that right? All fundraising efforts.
Regina Anderson 2:24
It’s a team effort. But yes, I set the strategy for that. Yeah, always grinding.
Diana Fryc 2:30
For over a decade, Regina has worked in the nonprofit sector committed to social justice issues because she believes it is in this sector that she can make the biggest difference, and that people are the engines of positive change. I love that. Overall, the food recovery networks goal is to support the higher education. It’s to support higher education and to be the first sector where food recovery is the norm. Not the exception. But Regina won’t stop there. Businesses events, public institutions also have a role in reducing food waste at the source. They have. They have a role to recover their surplus food and Virgina wants to ensure they are integrated within the vibrant Food Recovery Network to make that happen. Well Miss Regina, welcome.
Regina Anderson 3:16
Thank you so much. And I’m so thankful to be here. And again, shout out to Perteet for making this connection for us.
Diana Fryc 3:22
Yes, well, so Where are you calling from today?
Regina Anderson 3:25
I am in northeast DC, Washington, DC. Mm hmm.
Diana Fryc 3:29
And maybe we’ll I’ll ask this question afterwards. Because I’m always curious about the DC connection for these types of things of let’s start with this very first thing. I love it when my guests can tell us a little bit about their organization that they’re working with right now. Tell us a little bit about the Food Recovery Network, why it exists and who it services.
Regina Anderson 3:56
Excellent. Thank you for that question. So Food Recovery Network actually started 10 years ago this month. And it was Yeah. So this is our we’re entering into our 10 year existence. It was started by college students at the University of Maryland’s and they saw the need for food recovery in the sense that they were in this unique ecosystem called higher education. And they wanted to begin to explore what kind of people they’re going to be, you know, in terms of their volunteering efforts in terms of what impact they felt that they could have. And at the same time that that was going on. They were also you know, taking their classes and learning a lot about some very complex problems that the whole entire world is facing, and including domestically here in the United States. That is, you know, climate crisis and poverty and just very big and overwhelming issues with not a lot of solutions to those issues. And so they kind of combined You know, they’re evolving desire to be good people seeing a need in their community, and then understanding that actually, you know, by participating in food drives, or, you know, creating, you know, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, yeah, that that’s really great, but it’s only going to do so much. And so they created Food Recovery Network to address, you know, what they felt like, was a pretty simple solution to a big problem, which was they knew in their communities, not enough people had the food that they deserved. And they saw through their internships and work studies, that they’re hot, you know, that University of Maryland was actually throwing away a lot of really good food, food that, you know, for 59, you could purchase it, but at 501, it was destined to go into the trash can. And so they devised a plan, with the help of the dining provider at the University of Maryland, to begin a system for recovering all that extra food that the dining you know, Hall just wasn’t able to sell. so that they could wrap that food up, keep it nice and safe. And they were able to deliver it to a church down the street from them. It wasn’t going too far kept it local. And then from there, you know, they started calling their friends literally calling their friends across the country to begin the same process. It was beautiful.
Diana Fryc 6:23
Oh, my goodness. So I guess two questions from there. Are those original students slash founders? Are they still involved in Food Recovery Network? Or did they birth it and move on to other great things?
Regina Anderson 6:35
They, they birthed it and moved on to other great things, including. So the first executive director, his name is Ben Simon, and maybe some of your listeners have heard of him. And his company. He and one of the early you know, Chapter founders, Ben chesler, joined up and they created what is now called imperfect foods. Oh, yes. Yes. So they So Ben Simon left FRN to create this now amazing entity. So so they are, we are We love in perfect foods, we’re in touch with them often. But formerly, none of the original founders are still involved with a FRN from no proper, but I do reach out to them and talk to benches. They’re often too
Diana Fryc 7:24
I bet. What how wonderful that Ben’s next venture was literally the same concept, but from a different POV, servicing the same needs, making sure that no food is wasted. exactly those resources wasted. That’s amazing. And then when you say that they reached out across the country, so is the Food Recovery Network, literally nationwide at this point, we are
Regina Anderson 7:51
nationwide, we are we are represented by our higher education chapters 176 higher education institutions, okay, in 46 states, including here in DC. So we have about 4000 students, alumni, dying providers, partner agencies that receive the food in our network, and over the next 10 years, you know, when you’re reading my bio, and thank you so much for that. Part of what we’re working on is to grow that number from 4000 people who are so committed to ensuring people get the food that they deserve, to 40,000 people in the next 10 years.
Diana Fryc 8:30
Okay. Okay, and do you guys have like a statistics like statistic of how much food you are recovering at this point?
Regina Anderson 8:40
We do so to date, we have recovered through the power of college students, volunteering their time, through the power of businesses doing the right thing with their food, we’ve recovered over 5.1 million pounds of food, oh my goodness. And that translates into over 5 billion meals to human beings that deserve that food. So this is you know, people who are experiencing homelessness, domestic violence, veterans, people who are underemployed, not employed. There’s so many reasons why, sadly, people don’t have enough food to eat. But we’re making sure through the, again, the power of these amazing students that people get that food. And so actually this past program year, even though it was the pandemic, even though we saw only about 50% of our students who were actually able to do recovery efforts, we were able to recover over a million pounds of food. And much of that was fresh produce, through powerful partnership with The Farmlink Project, shout out to them. This is also an organization that was cropped up because of the pandemic. And it’s also another student driven organization which we love, because again, the power of of young people to just blow things out of the water and make things happen. So because of our powerful partnership with the farmers project, we were able to recover a lot of fresh produce, and to really get it into the communities that actually need that food. We’ve seen through, you know, from being a data driven nonprofit, that a lot of times, depending on where our chapters are the food that we’re recovering, yes, it is getting into places of need. But sometimes those communities actually are doing okay, in terms of how they are able to feed the people who need who need the food. So we’re thinking about, okay, well, where’s the next concentric circle of communities that don’t have the infrastructure that don’t have the limelight that don’t have, you know, a lot of the focus on them, you know, they’re already doing so many amazing, incredible things to feed their neighbors in need. So I want to shout out to all of those folks on the front lines that are really in those communities that have been disinvested in to say, thank you for all that you do every single day to feed your your community. And FRN would like to help support you to to increase that flow of precious food that everyone so deserves. And there’s that that kind of takes, that takes a little while, you know, to get into those neighborhoods in time. Yeah, so
Diana Fryc 11:15
we’re talking like food, desert areas, redlined areas, those types of, is that what you’re specifically targeting there in what you’ve just said? Yeah,
Regina Anderson 11:27
is Yeah, and you know, and again, thanks for reading my, my background, you know, in terms of I spent my whole career as you, as you mentioned, in the nonprofit sector, and that, you know, has gone across a lot of different organizations, including I worked for a very long time for an anti poverty, nonprofit. And, you know, a lot of what we did was to empower the people who happen to be in poverty to lift themselves out of poverty, because it’s so it is very fractured system to try to, you know, make your ends meet. And a lot of times, people who live in a world where they’ve never had to worry about finances, or they’ve never had to worry about food, they really truly, and this is an indictment. They’ve never really truly had to, you know, wonder, you know, why is it that people don’t have these resources and so it’s really educating people on it’s not a moral reason why people don’t have the food that they need it’s not people consistently making bad choices, you know, and and choosing the wrong path. You know, if we have 42 million people who don’t have enough food to eat my goodness, that is not they just didn’t get it wrong. There are other there are other things at play here and so so redlining is definitely one of those things. And you know, I’m really excited to say that we have the National Association of Realtors on our board of directors so that we can begin to address some of the health outcomes and really shine a light on them people have housing and they have secure housing and they have safe housing how does that interact with their access to food? We’ve had conversations before and this is a learning journey for me as well around when we use words like you know food deserts food apartheid, food swamps you know lots of people describe the situation of lack of access to food consistently in a lot of different ways. And you know, I think everyone when they when they correct me, you know, I say this all with, like humility and out of respect, you know, so at the end of the day, though, you know, why don’t people have the ability to get food and get it fairly quickly without having to take three buses which is expensive and sometimes you just don’t have the money to take those three buses to get to a grocery store. And so that means you are going to different places and getting you know, maybe the food that’s not as nutritious but it’s available to you it’s it’s it’s I couldn’t I could literally go on and on and up but you know, just again, just helping helping people widening their aperture of understanding as to how did we get to this place that we are in right now a 42 million people not having enough food to eat and then letting folks understand that we can all have a role to play in correcting that and amending that system so that we can you know, make everyone whole
Diana Fryc 14:24
right I that’s like a whole webinar series I probably right. And then and it’s so hard because sometimes, we can even get lost in the How did we get here because going backwards isn’t how we’re going to get out of it. So we kind of want to understand how we got here, but we now have all sorts of tools available to us to little literally eradicate this scenario. So when you’re thinking about this, I’m hearing food service. I’m hearing hospitality. How Are you working with CPG brands? Or are you yet in your efforts?
Regina Anderson 15:06
And please, do illuminate and educate me CPG
Diana Fryc 15:11
brands super packaged goods?
Regina Anderson 15:17
Absolutely, you know, I will say it thinking again about the anniversary that FRN is embarking on, you know, being around for 10 years, we do see a lot of just real quick, you know, speaking of packaged brands, a lot of really cool companies that are coming up that are using, you know, surplus food or, or, you know, parts of food that might not have been consumed, to further contribute to the amount of food that we have for people to eat. And, and I do want to give a shout out to matriarch foods for their work. Incredible, but in terms of, you know, consumer packaged goods, you know, we have seen with the pandemic, that actually a lot of our higher education institutions are moving to these grab and go, you know, situations. And, and it’s all, you know, we are prepared to recover any any kind of, you know, and, and we already started with the hardest part, which is prepared foods just that was hot, or was cold, keeping it at temperature. So, you know, when we think about packaged foods, you know, we are equally prepared to recover that as well. And, you know, we do lend our voice to legislation that is out around, you know, date labeling, so some of these packaged foods, it’s very confusing to people as it is, is still okay, and safe for me and my family to eat. So we’re trying to, you know, make that easier for people to make decisions about, you know, the food that they have, so that we’re not necessarily unnecessarily throwing away perfectly good food in the grocery stores aren’t pulling perfectly good food before they need to. Yeah, yeah, but but consumer packaged goods is, you know, a really great way for, you know, in terms of shelf life, for some of the nonprofit’s where we donate the food to, to, you know, because not everybody has a stove. Not everybody has a microwave. Yep, not everyone has the ability to, you know, eat fresh fruits fresh. Yeah. And so we just, it’s all about dignity, respect and getting right kinds of foods to people that need it.
Diana Fryc 17:34
Yes, I’m working on a personal project right now, in school where we’re working with, well haven’t started the project yet. So I don’t want to disclose who it is. But we’re working with an organization that is getting people that is dealing with transitional housing, so temporary housing, getting those skills, getting those items that they need, and moving into permanent housing. And the biggest challenge we have there is not all of these living situations allow for food preparation. And so there is a need for either meals delivered, or consumer packaged products that are heat neat microwave, but have a nutritional value to them. Because as the other element is some of these folks, depending on why they became homeless in the first place, may not even have some of the food prep skills, a microwave is going to be their primary for a long time. In that Meantime, so I think, you know, it sounds like you guys are kind of on the front end of could possibly be a resource for brands that are wanting to create brands recovering, produce other kinds of food, but then also could help be used you as a conduit, rather than creating a whole separate entity to your product. And even educate like even education because as we have found in the in the work that we’ve been doing the Retail Voodoo does is that most adults get their education through marketing and advertising unless they’re actively seeking it out with your group, your audience that you’ve decided doesn’t fit your target doesn’t meet your target audience. And let’s let me say that a different way in naturals, our target audience are wealthy, educated, and typically Caucasian. And so we don’t market to traditionally to people that are outside of that. It’s changing. Yes, it is. But we’re not educating down here. And so if you can’t educate if you’re not educating, they’re never going to learn to continue that cycle based off of we what we believe is happening and what is not happening. So, lots to unpack there, I think your organization can be a conduit of education for consumer packaged brands to be either a better partner or to help better plan, even just work in their own communities. It sounds like,
Regina Anderson 20:18
we are definitely trying to do just that, Diana, and, you know, we have a lot of resources to have those kinds of conversations and actually do that work. And, you know, I just first though want to say thank you for what you’re doing with the transitional housing organization, I can’t wait to hear more about that, when it’s when it’s time. You know, it’s it’s one of the things that I that I tell folks, you know, again, the poor people’s campaign, they will, their numbers are 120 million Americans living in poverty. Again, they’re not all just getting that wrong. No. The other part within that is just as you said, when we think about people who are poor, and living in poverty, there’s a lot of assumptions that go along with that, and you hit on one of them, which is that they don’t have any money. And that is absolutely not true. They’re the money flow comes in fits and stops. And so that really does alter your ability for purchasing power, for sure. But now, instead of getting you know that bulk, you know, toilet paper, you’re just getting the one off one off, and you’re actually spending a lot more money than you then you would if you if you again, have had the means to make your full circle meet. And so I think a lot of banks are realizing that there’s a lot of money to be, you know, captured. I think, again, with the National Association of Realtors, we understand what, you know, the benefits of our communities, when we are able to, like get people into, you know, permanent housing. And so there is a lot of myth busting, you know, that I feel personally passionate about, and I’m just again, so thankful for the work that you’re doing. I think another group too, within that is folks that are aging out of the foster care system. Yes. In terms of, you know, what kinds of resources they have to prepare food and the knowledge base that they have. It’s another very vulnerable group of people that I think probably are in a lot of the transitional housing, you know, work that you’re that you’re doing.
Diana Fryc 22:39
Yes, I will share more. You’ll you’ll hear more in about three or four months. Awesome. Exciting. Well, so tell. Tell me a little bit about what are tell us a little bit about what, what are your biggest challenges right now? What is the Food Recovery Network challenged with either finding or delivering on?
Regina Anderson 23:05
I’ll talk about it from two different altitudes. Okay, the first I have to talk about it from the altitude of the executive director. You know, so I’ve been I’ve been at a FRN for six years, and it’s my first time being an executive director. And it was a it was a huge goal of mine. Yeah, and and so you know, I when I first started at at a friend, our budget was about $425,000. And now we are a $1 million organization we just eat over you know, nice, thank you. Yeah, so we’re really really very proud of that and I think a lot of people you know, have told me like that’s huge you’ve been able to do that so quickly. I wasn’t you know, a very highly networked person you know, I don’t call up you know, people in the administration to get you know, like a $600,000 grant or anything like that, you know, it was very much just grinding it out. And I love to do that I have no problem asking people to make financial contributions to FRN because I believe in what we’re doing and we are very responsible stewards of the finances that we do receive. And at the same time, I will say, you know, for me, it has felt like that it has felt like incremental growth. Yeah. And so a challenge that I have is I have proven that we are finishing Stewart’s I have proven the model of effort and I you know, and when I say I It is my it is a team Yeah, you know, not just Regina alone, work as a as a unit and it’s an awesome unit. I love my team. You know, we have proven ourselves time and time again, we most of the times we set a goal. We are we surpass it. And so I find a challenge for me is I’m ready for FRN to be able to partner with organizations in foundations or corporations that can provide a larger gift than what we historically have been given. And this is a challenge, I think of a lot of nonprofits. But, you know, FRN is not unique in that way. I just happened to have the mic. And I have to say that that has been a challenge. And statistically, though, I, you know, we can put it on paper in terms of what it means to be a woman, a brown person, you know, leading a nonprofit, and the stats are very different for, you know, for me, than it is for, you know, other other kinds of groups of people who are running, running nonprofits. So I want, I’m ready. So that’s the challenge. And one that I welcome, you know, deep partnerships that provide the kind of resources that FRN needs to feed more people faster, we have a framework that we’ve been working on, we just recently put forward, our learnings, our results, and ask for people’s feedback as we begin to make adjustments as we go up this mountaintop of securing the, you know, the economic security of the 42 million people who are food insecure. So that is a challenge and one that you know, I I live it every single day, and there’s a lot of ups and a lot of downs in terms of another altitude programmatically. Yes, we we are. Some of the challenges are that we, that we faced, that we were learning organization, we’re data driven, but we learn and we, you know, take that learning and apply it very quickly. We’ve done some pilots actually out in Atlanta, with powerful partnerships with the EPA, and the mayor’s office, so shout out to them, and thank you for what you’ve been able to do. Now, when I was mentioning earlier about really getting into the communities that actually are like, please, we need your help, we need your resources and challenges are, you know, how to begin to build the infrastructure, how to identify, you know, because a lot of us if if if we, if we don’t challenge ourselves and our framework that I’ve just mentioned, it’s, it’s an equity based framework, you know, Woody is at the center. And so we can’t just leave it at like, okay, here’s a food bank, they probably need the food that we have available. They might they might not they might be doing a okay. Yeah, so let’s think about who else is out there that doesn’t always get that email to say like, hey, there’s an organization that has that, right? Would you need it? Right. And thanks to the the partnership with the mayor’s office out in Atlanta, we were able to identify those groups, those very groups, because they live there, you know, right? They have those. So So, so identifying those kinds of partnerships that are actually going to roll up their sleeves and do that work with us, is a beautiful challenge. And one that, you know, as we look to expand that gleaning pilot, we will continue to do to need more of that. And just in case I’m not sure I would have, I don’t want to assume that your amazing audience knows the term cleaning because I know a lot of people in my world I don’t don’t beautiful, okay, so gleaning is when we go to a farm field after harvest, so after the farmers have gone through and picked all the things either by machine or by hand, okay, again, shout out to all of our you know, farmhands that are yet you know, manually picking our strawberries and doing this. Thank you very much. And in doing that in terms of COVID sometimes there is extra, there’s still food on the farm field it either because it’s too ripe, not right, but enough to big, lots of different reasons or, you know, hey, the farmer just things were all Ingres really great and more produce was was grown then then there was a need for Yeah, and there was a contract for so gleaning is then going out back out after that, that initial harvest and collecting the produce that is still on the farm field so that it doesn’t get tilled under and then we are able to transport that food that would have gotten tilled under and we do bring that to our our food bank shelters. Yeah, it’s been an awesome pilot and a lot of our chapters they on their own they they go out and glean you know especially a Florida and California chapters. It’s a wonderful way to get that healthy produce to eat into our communities.
Diana Fryc 29:33
Yes. That’s there’s a lot there. There’s a lot happening in Washington state as well. I’m sure you probably aware of fair start and the work that they’re doing, using. I don’t know if you’re familiar with fair start, but they use people who are transitioning out of homelessness and teaching them trade skills to work in restaurants in food preparation and service and delivery. Then they have a restaurant where people like myself can come and eat but during COVID when the restaurant shut down they looked at their business model and said we’re going to start creating packaged and we’re going to deliver so they are delivering out into areas where there have been big needs including the school districts, the Seattle Public School Districts received food packaged meals for anyone regardless of need but you don’t wouldn’t have a need at all but these amazingly prepared meals by people who are transitioning out of homelessness delivered to neighborhoods and to areas of need it’s really quite outstanding how as an organization gains momentum the impact that it can have so I can see how how you guys are at least at least in markets that are not like Seattle some markets are moving ahead faster because there’s an appetite for that type of support mechanism a safety net structures versus other areas but I can appreciate the complexity and the need states trying to communicate and the needs and the production and the transport and it’s it’s tough and then thinking that you’re going all the way down to the field. Like that’s a big deal though we’re not just recovering food off the shelf we are recovering it from the entire food chain process that is pretty great.
Regina Anderson 31:38
That’s i have I love that model. And I’m so thankful that they were able to be so creative during you know these unprecedented times, challenging times. There’s again I’m yet to use your face, there’s so much to pull out from what you just said. And you know, I’m just thinking of a like minded organization called Delancey Street foundation in San Francisco, very similar model where they have a restaurant that people who were experiencing homelessness can come and learn all of the different roles within that and what I love about them is that they also have a barber shop so they teach people how to you know cut hair, oh, hey, yep, they have a mechanic shop so that he’s part of the mechanics and they have a trucking situation so they then teach people how to drive the truck so and if the trucks happen to need mechanical support, then people are being trained on how to fix those, those cars and we partnered with them for three years in a row and again, unfortunately due to COVID we weren’t able to partner because the events with which we partnered it’s called the winter fancy Food Show and thanks to a specialty food associate yes I’m sure sounds very familiar and in the line of work that you do, and so we would come in after that winter fancy switcher, which is a trade show of you know, companies all around the world displaying their their food offerings and that at the end of the show, you know, these are full sized samples either got shipped back which has a lot of waste of natural resources right abandoned completely thrown away. So we’ve come through and you know, ask people if they would be willing to donate their product that they might have leftover. We took all of that, you know, year after year, 35,000 pounds of food 27,000 pounds of food the first year and we were able to donate it all to Delancey Street foundation love it and because they have truck drivers to drive the trucks they were able to come grab the food was gorgeous It was a beautiful wonderful situation oh my gosh we’ll do it again as soon as you know
Diana Fryc 33:41
things like yes, x Expo East is happening still question mark I mean that there’s what they’re saying we’re watching the COVID numbers creep up rather dramatically in Philly so we’ll see if that sticks but for now there are still organizations that are holding food shows so I know you’re stretched thin with an organization your size to hit everybody up might be tough but well I want to just for a moment step back and learn about their Regina that like Regina, his journey to this like we definitely hear your passion. And I love what you’re doing. How did you get here? Why, why here? Or How’d you get here? Is this something you’ve been wanting to do your whole life?
Regina Anderson 34:27
Well, you know, I’m very thankful and I feel like I’m doing what I shouldn’t be doing. And, you know, it’s been very recent that I have really began to talk about my background. And you know, so talk about my, when I was in undergrad, my exposure to learning about AmeriCorps which was you know, really what jump started my even under Standing what the nonprofit sector was, and that you can have a career and helping people. But I always omitted a particular fact about, you know, who I am that I am now, just like, I guess leaning into, because it is, the reason why I do the work that I do, which is I grew up in a working poor household. And it was pretty stressful for my parents, they work to shift work, and it was just never going to be enough, it’s just never gonna be enough, they did double shifts, they work seven days a week, a lot of times, or you just had a day off, you know, here and there. And it just was never enough, you know, and again, if anybody’s ever, and I don’t want anybody to ever experience this, but for those of us who have, you know, what it’s like, where you pause on paying this bill so that you can do something over here, which might be get your kids you know, close, because they’ve outgrown on their clothes, or might be, you know, taking your kids to the dentist because, you know, whatever it might be, you’re always just sort of playing this, this board game of life, and it is extremely stressful. And while I was able to go into college, you know, I, my sister and I were the first in our immediate family to go to college, I didn’t really know what that was, like, I didn’t know I didn’t, you know, have a vision for how that was going to improve my life. But I just happened to be a person who can, you know, stick to long term ideas. And I graduated. But I, I all through college and into my mid 20s, I too, was a pretty much working poor individual. And so then I inherited a lot of the stress of like, you know, trying to make all these things happen. And along the way, I just had so many people who helped me, for my professors and undergraduate encouraged me to get an internship. And I and I went on to one of my first jobs that I have is to help other people find internships, to you know, my best friend’s family growing up that, you know, just really encouraged me, they’re the ones to say, like, what are you doing, you’re going to college, because I hadn’t even thought about that, too, you know, after grad school, but when I was like looking for, you know, my next steps this all the way down to this, there was this particular group of people that would come in every once in a while, to the restaurant where I was waiting tables, and they were just lovely human beings, and say their bill happened to be, you know, 75 bucks across six people. Sure, he would basically leave me a tip of $150. And then just, you know, and whenever they came, I wasn’t expecting that at all. But they have no idea how many times they saved me, they’ve no idea how many times they saved me. And so I just all the ingredients, all of this, like life experience, and yeah, setback and hardship and gems, and you know, all these things just is an inextinguishable fire inside of me that I’m here to ensure that people don’t have to deal with this kind of crap. There’s no other way to put it. It’s just ridiculous. It’s a huge waste of time. There’s so much cortisol coursing through our veins, you know, I How many times have I woken up in the middle of the night, just stressed out of my mind about money? Yes, you know, and I’m working really hard, people are working really hard. And in exchange, you know, we as a, as a nation could at least say, well, thank you for that we can guarantee you have a safe place to lay your head and you can, you know, bring your kids to school. And there’s very, very simple things that we ask for in return. And yes, I’m indignant that that’s not being returned back to so many people who are working so hard.
Regina Anderson 38:57
Yeah. It’s, it’s a little crazy when you think about it, because the, the some of the same people who say, Well, those that are living in poverty, made bad choices. And yet, if you look at many of the people that are working in poverty, they oftentimes are working harder. Then the then the person who’s thinking that through, they’re not thinking, Oh, it they’ve got two jobs, and they don’t have discretionary income, so they can’t do an instacart and grocery shopping is a two hour event. And if time is money, and they’re you know, you start to compound that thinking and there was something that you said when we were preparing for this call that like, I don’t want to turn this into like a political type of of kind So I’m hoping that people can hear this not as a political but more kind of a functional type of thing. But capitalism, you said, is designed for there to be winners and losers, if I, if I was to articulate it in shorthand, where the winners get to be winners, and they feel good about winning, because they can look down and see that there’s losers. I think that’s starting to shift depending on where you live. Like, for example, here where I live in Seattle, there are huge pockets of people that are, hide, hide their resources, not because they’re afraid it’s going to be stolen, but there’s almost a little bit of embarrassment in their success. And it would be nice for us to be like, you can be successful, and you can make loads of money. But make sure you’re taking care of like, this is not a winner take all this is a because you have, therefore you can type of scenario. And that can get into all sorts of prickliness from a political standpoint, but if we’re just talking economically, and we’re just talking about humans, we can all say, it could be a different way for us to be handling all of this, it doesn’t have to be this way.
Regina Anderson 41:16
I think you’re absolutely right. And, you know, I think you articulated that very adroitly. And I, I agree with you in to the point where, you know, when we do our work, as I was mentioning, you know, with this is what equity means to me. When we were working on our pilot in Atlanta, when we were finally able to identify a farmer, because that again, that took a little while we reached out to a lot of farmers and they’re busy. You know, the farmer, they’re working, they’re not on their computers, like we are, you know, but the farmer farmer Mike that we were able to begin our partnership with, he, we we paid him a living wage, to, you know, harvest the food and transport this way, we weren’t asking to donate that because farmers are already living, you know, living in such tight margins, we want to be able to pay for the service, if people want to be able to buy their food, that’s the number one way people get their food, it’s not donated to them, they buy it, right, you know, and we don’t want it to be like, well, you can buy your food, but you can’t buy your medication, right, whatever it might be, you know, so that’s what that when you know, your your call to equity, that’s what that looks like, you know, that we’re paying our farmers a living wage. And that when they do have surplus food, we’re not trying to necessarily nickel and dime them. Right. So that it’s not even worth it to them. donations are amazing, whenever we can get those because it really does help in this extraordinary time of need right now. Absolutely. You know, we definitely take donations, but we can also begin a system of you know, trying to pay people for their time for their expertise for the thing that they produce in this, you know, happens to be broccoli or tomatoes or, or whatever it is. And I think, you know, no matter where you stand, you know, you we can all agree agree to that, you know, and and so the other thing too, about, you know, food recovery, is that I think another thing that we can all agree on is everyone has the right to food, and I don’t care, you know what your politics are. This isn’t about it’s not about politics, it’s about being a human being, and ensuring that people aren’t suffering. Hmm. And and that’s that’s it, it’s pretty simple.
Diana Fryc 43:41
Well, I, I can appreciate your, your personal story. And I thank you for sharing that with us because they know that that’s, you know, that’s a tough thing to share with strangers. It’s not easy, but I feel like I should say thank you for creating that safe space for me. Yeah. I wonder at what point did you have an aha, in this post graduate world? Where you said, I’m on a mission? Was it in that moment when you were serving tables and getting those tips from those amazing people? Or was there some thing or was it a series of some things?
Regina Anderson 44:18
It was, it was a series of some things I had after I after I graduated where I went to Carnegie Mellon for grad school and I studied recent gender theory and systems of power. So there was that you know, and it was it was fascinated by that because of how I grew up, you know, so sometimes we turn in and we’re reflective on you know, our pursuits. So it’s very find the dots are very much connected there. Yes. And then I you know, I waited tables for about seven, nine months for the family that owned the restaurant. I love them. You know, when I go back to Pittsburgh, I you know, try to stay visit them. They were wonderful. And I learned a lot of things while waiting tables, you know, it’s a really great gig to have in terms of, you know, being able to manage all kinds of different relationships and your time. And yeah, it’s a beautiful thing. But then my first job out of, you know, out of that was at the choral Center for Civic leadership, then, okay, individual leadership development organization. So that was a key piece for me, I worked there for five years. And so I got a ton of training, it’s accelerated training on how to organize yourself, how to organize your time, how to organize teams, how to, you know, look out into the community to gather resources that you might need. And we also partnered with an AmeriCorps organization project, okay, all Public Allies, and so they’re the group that did a lot of reflection around, you know, race and who gets to be a leader, and who’s at the table. And, you know, how do you build your own table if you’re not invited to a particular table, so all those things are swirling around me, and at the same time, I’m very poor still. So I’m volunteering a lot. Because I’m an extrovert, I just love you know, all these different things. My friends were very active, you know, so that was like, the ecosystem that I was in, in Pittsburgh. And so I couldn’t afford to go to all these awesome gals and stuff. So I just volunteered to, you know, work the registration table, which is the best because you get to talk to every single person, right? Love it. And then over time, you know, people started asking me to join committees. And I started joining boards. So another big swirl for me, it was that I joined on two particular nonprofit boards, and I was on a bunch that were just awesome. Yeah, these two in particular, were women, you know, shout out to Kim Everett and Christine Hawes, where I was able to just observe how they, how they lead their organizations, and I was able to take some good things from them some very good things, because up until that point, you know, you think about your boss inspire you, you get along with your you know, and I haven’t necessarily had that, again, my time at coral is amazing. But, you know, truly, truly, truly making things like click for me, it was these, these two women. So all of that, you know, came to be for me where things started to make a pathway of I feel more and more confident in my ability to see a long term vision come into life. Not today, not tomorrow, and not in, you know, necessarily a year. And I have to say, when you grow up poor, and you’re thinking about even a simple concept of I just don’t want to be poor anymore. How are you going to do that? Right, a fractured system. It takes years. And so I’m an extremely patient person, extremely patient person, when it comes to I will harness what I see in the future that I know that other people agree on should be the future, I will harness that. Because soon that future is that today. And and that’s how that all kind of happened for me.
Diana Fryc 48:22
Wow. Yeah, I think it’s it’s kind of a crazy question where I say where I asked, What’s that one moment, because it’s really never a one moment. It’s, it’s a one moment is really a tipping point, a series of events. So I get that. I want to ask a little bit, there was something that you and I also talked about when we were discussing being when we were preparing for this, and it was talking about the diversity gap within organizations, it is specifically in leadership within organizations like the Food Recovery Network, and you had an insight there on how it impacts the people that you serve.
Regina Anderson 49:08
I’m so so sorry, I was trying to adjust. I realized, let me just do a human moment right now and try to adjust my lighting so that I’m not just a big, you know, glaring thing for everyone listening in. You’re good. Could you see that one one more time? In terms of
Diana Fryc 49:27
the question. Here’s the question. When we were preparing for this call, you had made a statement about the the diversity disparity in organizations like the Food Recovery Network, particularly at a leadership level, and you had an insight on how it impacts the communities that you serve. And do you I don’t know if you remember, I do yeah,
Regina Anderson 49:51
it’s it’s something that I feel like it’s very, again, a passion of mine, that I not only is it a lived experience, but I’m also nerd and so I study this stuff academically. You know, it’s it’s just really fun. I tell my team this all the time, like, what angle Do we want here? Like, it’s, you know, and so a few things that I’ll say, and just to lay the groundwork and the first is that I think, you know, in our attempts at diversity, we create these checks boxes that we need to, you know, and and I think for a lot of organizations, maybe that’s a good start. But then there’s also this flagellation that happens there, you’re just always sort of beating yourself up for never having all those boxes checked. Why would you, you know, people leave your team, where they leave, you know, your, your volunteer opportunity, other people come in, and it’s always swirling around. And, and so what, what I am looking for is what does, you know, inclusion look like? So right now at a friend, I talked to the team about this all the time, you know, they’re, you know, identify as brown or multiracial. We have somebody who identifies as Latina, and everyone else identifies as white. And, and then we talk about this very upfront, you know, that I want people when they come if they’re considering working at a friend, if they’re considering volunteering at a friend, that they could be the only one who, whatever identifier you want to say, and I still feel like I am welcomed here. And I feel like if I don’t want to do the emotional labor of explaining to people x identifier, I didn’t have to, yeah, you know, that’s, that’s really important to me. And, and so we do see, you know, again, I really appreciated what you said Diana, about, we don’t always need to do the, you know, let’s go all the way back into history to understand how we got there to where we are today. But when we think about some certain opportunities, volunteering being one of them, is oftentimes you know, what you do when you have spare time, and if you’re working three jobs, and you’re trying to go to school and raise a family, you might not necessarily have that free time, shout out to the University of the District of Columbia, students who participated in our national conference a few years ago, you know, single moms, students, you know, trying to make their own ends meet and created a food pantry at that institution. So I’m not saying that, you know, just because you might be really struggling unnecessarily. Due to bigger structures outside of your control that you don’t volunteer. That’s, that’s not it at all. But sometimes it is more amenable to be able to do something like volunteer, it is more amenable to do something like go on to higher education, if your parents have done it, if they’re able to, you know, pay for it, or even, you know, pay for whatever their financial contribution is. And then suddenly, it’s like, Okay, well, we look around who are friends, they kind of all have this shared experience. So great. When I mentioned about how FRN first started, it was literally people calling their other friends at higher education institutions, you know, so, for me, that also means Okay, who are we? Who are we not talking to? Right? Right, or at least trying to talk to us maybe we’re not listening Yes. And so it just behooves me to ensure that I’m not trying to check boxes, just check boxes, but it behooves me to understand you know, authentically the needs of people across the country when it comes to food when it comes to what they’re already doing. And that’s for me how we can start to begin to be more asset based as opposed to these folks who aren’t at the table now they want to be at the table and that means something bad for me Yeah, I mean, something’s being taken away from me No, actually. One plus one can equal five it really can and so it’s moving away from that you know, scarcity mindset of when we think about widening the circle for more people are our knee jerk reaction isn’t to shut the door because somebody be taken away from us. That’s that’s not that’s not, that’s not what’s gonna happen.
Diana Fryc 54:11
That’s not what’s gonna happen. Well, when, what, when you think about your journey, to where you are now in the work that you do, what kind of advice do you like to give people who are considering a similar path? or similar work? What do you like to tell them?
Regina Anderson 54:32
So I love thank you for that question. I really appreciate that. Um, you know, I as I mentioned, I love young people I love you know, this, you know, 18 to whatever year old you know, on up, just find it’s such a fascinating and fun time in life and you know, the sky’s the limit and I want to make sure that we keep it that way. You know, I don’t want to, I don’t want you people always say when you get older than all you You know, your all your joy and your, you know, no, I just keep that. Let’s keep it let’s get those ideas going, you know, yeah. Right. So I, um, I, the advice that I give folks is a few few things, try a lot of stuff. And I know that that, you know, people are now doing internships when they’re like, junior high, um, but try a lot of stuff. And don’t assume that because you have your first job out of college, that it’s going to be the right fit for, you know, over over time, I’ve seen a lot of people who are just very, not happy in their jobs or in their fellowship notes that’s happened that a friend, there’s not happy there, because it’s not a good fit. But you don’t know that until you try it. Yep, yep. And then, and then once you realize what is it about this that I don’t like? Is it the people? Or is it the responsibilities or the lack of responsibilities really drill down on what is it? And then, you know, move on to the next thing where, you know, stay for a year, if you can, you know, but just, let’s not assume that if you’re feeling unsatisfied, that is, you know, somebody’s doing something to you. Yes. And and I think that has, I think that can help. Yep. So that people aren’t just like, I don’t want to see people leaving the nonprofit sector because it doesn’t get one job doesn’t feel like a good, yep, a good fit. And I will say, you know, we know that, before the pandemic, the nonprofit sector was seeing a lot of people entering into that sector, because so many people, you know, at the end of the day, want to make a difference in the work in which they endeavor. So I say thanks, we need all the help we can get, we need all the talent that we can get. So please come join us and then in the nonprofit space, but yeah,
Diana Fryc 56:55
is that the same advice that you would give the Regina in college that no one’s ever asked me that? I love it. Um, I guess, you know, cuz i, this is where it’s coming from, because I’m thinking, the person that comes from lack of trial and error is not part of the lexicon or the behavior. So what would you tell the Regina, that might be different than what you just said? Because I feel like it might be different.
Regina Anderson 57:26
Yeah, I will say you’re absolutely right, Diana, I my margin of making mistakes was very small.
Diana Fryc 57:38
There’s no room, there’s no room at that it at that place.
Regina Anderson 57:42
And it’s impossible to not make mistakes as a human being. Mm hmm. And I’m, I will say, before I answer that question, I feel I’m very lucky. But I made a lot of mistakes. There’s some classes that I took, I didn’t know how to approach college. I mean, I think a lot of people don’t even if you’ve gone to college, or whatnot. But, uh, you know, I just, I just wasn’t sure how to do this thing. So, you know, I had some classes that I didn’t like, and then I like, drop a class, you know, out of class. Um, you know, so mistakes definitely were made. And And I walked away from that still not being a perfectionist. perfectionist now, no, Okay, that’s good. Sign me up for that class, there’s no such thing. And that’s not how we get our work done. And so I will say, that’s more advice I would give to other people is, perfection is not the goal is not when, when we’re walking up that mountain together, and there’s so many different ways to do the same thing. You know, so let yourself off the hook a little bit. You know, perfection is not. So the advice that I would, that I would give myself, you know, as a young Regina, I think would be, you know, when I, when I talk about the mistakes, you know, you have to be so good with your money, you have to be so good with your money. And if you’re really good with your money, then you get a flat tire, and there’s no money for that, or if you you know, whatever it might be. So I think that I would say, within all that it sounds kind of draconian to know that not everything is within the scope of your control. Yeah, you know, if you have to go to a dentist and you don’t have dental insurance, and oh, that’s 400 bucks for this or that. Um, I think I would say my advice would be to learn a bit more about finances. Okay. Um, it’s something that my parents didn’t talk about. Okay. Probably, you know, just when you don’t have a lot it’s not it’s not like a common conversation, you know, families have, so I think it would be it definitely would be that and I think there’s more financial literacy that’s happening at younger Yes. And, and I’m just so thankful to to know that that’s happening, but okay. Yeah, I think that would be it. Okay. Okay. Kind of But no.
Diana Fryc 1:00:02
Practical. So like, if you if there is a foundational element that you don’t have that is going to end it’s just a simple foundational element that’s going to that’s going to be able to catapult you. Why wouldn’t you want to have that bit of information? It could be boring as in me, you got it. It’s just all there is to it. Right? So okay, check the box, you get some get some basic financial literacy and libraries are doing that type of thing for free right now. Yeah. So thank you for that. Thank you. Well, Miss Regina, our time is almost up. There’s a few questions that I like to ask everybody. So well, these are these are pretty quick. But they’re, they typically are the fun part. So you’ve already given us some interesting facts about food, food recovery, people living in poverty, there’s some sort of I call it a happy hour fact something that when you share it with people who are outside of our industry, whether it’s a nonprofit, or in food production and food manufacturing, that when you tell them like oh, I have no idea, this is like super huge. Do you have a happy hour fact?
Regina Anderson 1:01:12
Um, I guess I would say, a good habits, awesome way to put that to a happy hour Fact is, you know, I think that when people understand when, when we, when I tell people what we do, they’re always like, I always wondered what happened to you know, this extra food, and I’m so glad that there’s a place to put it, you know, there’s, there’s, there’s people who need that food. So I think, you know, a happy our Fact is, you know, it’s very simple to be part of a solution. And so while the issue might seem very big, I always tell people, and you can do something today, it’s and I think that that’s really fun. So if we think about, the most common statistic that we put out there is at 40% of the food that we produce, at some time in the in the food chain, it’s going to not be eaten. I think that number is changing, you know, thanks to the refunds of the world and the natural reef, Natural Resources Defense Council, NRDC for short. They’re doing a lot of this, you know, national research to help, you know, get a better understanding of that, since that that statistic was first, first put out, so um, you know, I think that you said it earlier. Truly, we can eradicate this human design problem that we have here. Mm hmm.
Diana Fryc 1:02:39
Are there any women leaders in food food production, or just in general that you would like to just rising stars, or just leaders in general, that you would just like to acknowledge or simply admire for the work that they’re doing and who are in and why? I love that question.
Regina Anderson 1:03:01
And, gosh, we have 15 more hours. I do. I love naming names, I dropped names all the time. And that that is just I love I love that when we can do it for a good reason. And so a couple of the names that comes to my mind, I have to give a shout out to one of my dear friends, a super close friend of mine, Danielle Nierenberg, who is the founder of Food Tank, co founder Food Tank with Bernie. Yeah, so they are an aggregate organizations. So and they started, you know, even before FRN started, they believe, and I just joined their board of directors. But it was a space to help people to, you know, gain knowledge, when it was really hard to get information about who are farmers, you know, where did they live? And like, what are what is soil amendment? And, you know, how our young people, you know, really thinking differently about food and, you know, what are some of the ways that we’re, you know, saving water and growing more food, you know, so food tech does all that and they have a really beautiful focus on giving the mic to people who don’t normally get the mic, and I think that’s amazing. So so there’s that, you know, I just mentioned this stat, the 40%. Dana Gunder is formerly of NRDC now the executive director of the Fed, okay. And somebody who was, I just think such a smart brain had been on our advisory board. Rifat is still on the advisory board. But yes, you know, Dana is just such a smart person. I love her so much. I need to give a shout out to Katie Jones, my chief operating officer, and you know, you know, Katie and I have known each other for a very long time and we complement each other so well, you know, I’m mega extrovert, you know, I’m thinking you know, 15 years down the line and she’s like that, what do we need to do today? You Yeah, you know, and just is transformed. FRN has transformed FRN. And I’m just so thankful that she joined the team about a year and a half ago, I haven’t looked back since. And it really has helped to accelerate us achieving our goals. And, you know, the FRN team, we’re all we all identify as, as women, we have one person on our team who identifies as male, so if I could just give a full shout out to the, to the FRN team, you know, and all of our, our students 71% of the people who volunteer at a FRN are women are identifies as female. So truly, we see, like so many awesome, awesome, awesome women who are making things or helping to shape things to be the way that they can be. Yeah, and it’s gorgeous. And I one last thing, I will say that I do know that there’s a lot of folks who don’t identify, you know, have different identifications on the on the, you know, they’re not binary, yeah, and I, you know, love that we can see that now. And it’s not like such a shocker. And, you know, I look forward to working with all different kinds of communities and all different kinds of identifiers. And you just wanted to put that out there, you know, as well. So, thank you. Thanks for that question.
Diana Fryc 1:06:23
Yeah. Um, we have been, we’ve just spent this last bit of time here talking with Miss Regina Anderson, who is the executive director of the Food Recovery Network, Regina, if people wanted to talk to you about the efforts that you’re doing, maybe get a little bit of insight in your career path, or just simply learn more about what’s happening with Food Recovery Net, how would you prefer they reach out to
Regina Anderson 1:06:52
you? So I hope that everyone does reach out to me, I love talking. talking with you. You know, I come please be in touch with me. You know, I have I have jobs for you to do you know, I’m sure you have resources for me like this? Yes, let’s keep the conversation going. So one of the best ways is to just, you know, you can email me, I think the best way is to email firstname.lastname@example.org. And I say that because, you know, like, a lot of us were really inundated with email, and I want to make sure that we don’t miss anything. So there’s that. You know, please go to our website. There’s all kinds of information there that you might find. I hope that’s helpful to you food recoverynetwork.org. I’m on social media, ReginaDM is my personal Twitter. And I’m on Twitter all the time. So I hope that people feel like they they want to continue the conversation and thank you for being on ramp. Oh,
Diana Fryc 1:07:55
Regina, thank you so very much for your time today and for all the work that you’re doing. And I’m really excited to watch how Food Recovery Network continues to evolve and grow into an even bigger force for good. So thank you so much.
Regina Anderson 1:08:13
Diana Fryc 1:08:16
Okay, everybody, we’re looking forward to catching you next time. It was really great to have you with us.
We hope you enjoyed this episode. And if you haven’t already, be sure to click subscribe and share with your network. Until next time, be well and do Gooder.