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An Alternative Break trip three years ago motivated one graduating senior to establish an organization that helps feed the hungry with food recovered from events and dining establishments at UT.

Ryan Brown mugRyan Brown, who is graduating with a degree in business, helped create UT’s chapter of the Food Recovery Network in 2013.

The Food Recovery Network is a national organization that unites college students to fight waste and feed people by donating the surplus unsold food from their colleges to hungry Americans. Founded in 2011, the network includes more than 110 chapters in thirty states and the District of Columbia and has recovered more than half a million pounds of food.

“It all started when I went on my first Alternative Break trip through the Center for Leadership and Service in 2012, where we traveled to Winston-Salem, North Carolina, to serve hungry and homeless populations,” said Brown, who has specialized in marketing and international business. “We worked with a similar organization at Wake Forest University and I thought to myself, ‘Why don’t we have this in Knoxville?'”

FRN 3With the help of the Center for Leadership and Service, the Food Recovery Network national office, Aramark, and Second Harvest of East Tennessee, Brown and the three other founding members–Victoria Knight, Carmen Bell, and Kelsey Coombs–were able to start a UT chapter.

The chapter began its work at the UT vs. Vanderbilt football game in 2013, where they recovered more than 600 pounds of unused safe-to-eat food. Now, in 2015, the chapter has recovered more than 3,000 pounds of food.

The UT chapter recovers food from campus POD markets every Wednesday and Sunday, and collects leftover food from the Neyland Stadium skyboxes on game days. It has also partnered with the Center of Leadership and Service to recover food from the Clifton M. Jones Student Leadership Conference.

The chapter holds monthly forums to educate the campus community on issues surrounding hunger, such as homelessness, poverty, and sustainable food practices.

FRN 1“We believe in creating service-learning opportunities for our members and those who volunteer with us,” Brown said. “And we would be remiss if we did not take time to educate our community about why we’re here.”

Brown is looking for a job but also considering graduate school options for higher education administration. Although he will pass along the leadership torch for the UT chapter, Brown still plans on being an advocate for food justice and will continue to serve as a resource for the chapter.

The Haslam College of Business commencement ceremony will be at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday in Thompson-Boling Arena.


Amy Blakely (865-974-5034,