Junior nutrition major Levi Saavedra has always had a passion for volunteer work.
So when he learned about the impact of hunger on the Greensboro community, he knew he had to help.
“In nutrition classes, we learn a lot about hunger and malnutrition,” Saavedra said. “There weren’t many student groups on campus helping, so I figured, why not dedicate my time to it?”
About a year ago, Saavedra and fellow UNCG students Madison Herbert, Leslie Rice, Heather Thompson and Julian Weichel began to explore ways to help fight hunger in the community. Their solution? Form a Food Recovery Network (FRN) chapter on campus and start “recovering” food.
Founded in 2011 by college students, FRN is a national nonprofit that unites students on college campuses to fight food waste and hunger by recovering perishable food that would otherwise be thrown away and donating it to people in need.
UNCG’s FRN chapter, one of 161 chapters across 39 states, conducted its first recovery on April 30, 2015. Since then, the student organization has recovered approximately 2,300 pounds of perishable food from campus dining halls. FRN recovers food three times a week and delivers it to the Salvation Army of Greensboro and Greensboro Urban Ministry.
“We deliver food during dinner time so that our volunteers get to see that we are helping real families,” said Saavedra, who now serves as the chapter’s president. “Even as a small organization on campus, we have the potential to make a big difference.”
What started as five students with a passion to fight hunger has transformed into a growing student organization with an executive board, recovery leaders and nearly 60 active members.
Saavedra is deeply committed to the organization’s mission. Last summer, he met with Congresswoman Alma Adams to share his goals and vision and learn more about her hunger initiatives in Guilford County. He also worked closely with UNCG’s Office of Leadership and Service-Learning (OLSL) to develop a clearly articulated vision and connect with other student leaders on campus.
This past fall, Saavedra received the Community Impact Award from North Carolina Campus Compact, a statewide network of colleges and universities with a shared commitment to community engagement. The award is given to one student leader at each member school. Saavedra was one of 21 students chosen by their respective campuses for the 2015 award.
“It’s an honor,” Saavedra said. “It’s awesome to know that the OLSL staff, who nominated me for the award, could see my potential and the organization’s potential.”
Saavedra has big plans for FRN in 2016. He wants the chapter to be more involved on campus, and he’s hoping to have events throughout the semester that educate students on hunger issues in the community.
“Everyone can be involved in fighting hunger,” he said. “Being aware of the situation and knowing you can do something about it is really important. Creating that awareness on campus is fundamental to our mission and vision.”
Story by Alyssa Bedrosian, University Relations
Photography by Alyssa Bedrosian, University Relations