The Backpack Program is Saved!

Back in early December, we had a bit of a scare. Governor Baker, as part of his 9C budget cuts, slashed $110,000 of state funding for the Cambridge Weekend Backpack Program. This was 100% of the funding we had been promised by the state and 68% of the total funding for this program. (And almost 12% of Food For Free’s entire budget for the year!)

Happening five months into our fiscal year, this was pretty scary. Could we recoup this funding? Would we have to scale back the program?

"We were very worried when these cuts came down," said Sasha Purpura, Food For Free's Executive Director. "Cutting the program wasn't something I was willing to consider, but I just didn't know how we were going to raise that much money halfway through our fiscal year."

The good news? Our supporters rode to the rescue!

Nearly 300 individuals, local businesses, and private family foundations responded, donating over $60,000 in less than two months. And, just last week, Biogen, a biotech company with offices in East Cambridge, committed $20,000 in funding.

The City of Cambridge—awesome as always—has also stepped up to the plate, committing the remaining $35,000 still needed to replace the entire $110,000 that was lost.

We are now 90% of the way to funding the program—in its entirety—for this fiscal year. Which is to say, we’re in better shape than before we lost state funds.

Further more, Cambridge's City Manager, Louie DePasquale (who is in the middle of his budget process,) will be making a $75 000 funding recommendation to the City Council for the next fiscal year (thank you, Louie and thank you, Cambridge!), which means—with your continued support and that of business partners like Biogen—the Backpack Program should have stable funding for years to come.

Of Biogen Foundation's support, Chris Barr, Executive Director, Biogen Foundation and Associate Director, Community Relations for Biogen says:
Food For Free's Weekend Backpack Program is such an important resource for Cambridge kids. The Biogen Foundation is so proud to have played a role in preserving this program.
So, thank you! Thank you, individuals who chipped in, businesses that found some money in your budgets, activists who helped us spread the word, Chris Barr and his team at Biogen, Vice Mayor McGovern and Councillor Cheung for raising this in city council and Louis Depasquale for lending city support. Thanks to you, Cambridge schoolchildren can continue to depend on this program. They can look forward to weekends full of healthy meals and to attending class on Monday mornings well-fed and able to learn.

Our supporters are the BEST.

One final note: because the crisis has passed, we have now taken down the “Donate Now” button on the Backpack Program page. You can, of course, still donate to Food For Free here where your donation will support the Backpack Program as well as ALL of Food For Free's (awesome, if we do say so ourselves) programs, like Food Rescue, Home Delivery, and Family Meals. So, go ahead and donate if you like, and know that your support always matters to people who might otherwise go hungry.

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What We’re Up To: Winter 2017 Edition

It used to be that winter was a quieter season here at Food For Free. With Thanksgiving long gone and most farmers’ markets closed for the year, we used to spend winter quietly planning for the coming year, while continuing to rescue food from our many year-round donors.

This winter has been anything but quiet.

We’ve been hiring.
  • Lauren O’Brien (above) has replaced Suzannah McFerran as Program Coordinator for the Cambridge Weekend Backpack Program. She’ll be helping Alanna to order, pack, and distribute food and will work with Rindge School of Technical Arts chefs to expand their Food Justice curriculum. We are excited by her energy and focus on the issue of food justice and sustainability and how that will shape the program for the future!

  • John Haak has replaced Veronica Barron as part of the Development team. As Development Assistant, he’ll be the new voice of our social media. Say “hi” to him at the Empty Bowls event on April 22!

  • Sarah Adkins started on February 2 in the new position of Operations Coordinator. Sarah will provide an all-important link between our Food Rescue operations and our direct-service programs, like the School Markets, helping to ensure that these programs get the food and other resources they need to run smoothly.

  • And, finally, Amy Starzec joined Family Meals on February 7 as Program Coordinator. Previously a volunteer with the program, Amy will be helping Fiona to turn rescued prepared food into delicious single-serving meals at the Christ Church kitchen.
Somerville Family Learning Collaborative Liaisons

We’ve been growing.

Family Meals has started delivering meals to: Food Rescue is now serving:
  • Cambridge School Volunteers after-school homework help program. Once a week, we bring fresh fruit so that students can concentrate on their homework instead of their hunger.
And is about to start rescuing food from: And, finally, we’ve been in the news.
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Spotlight on: Somerville Family Learning Collaborative

Everyone at Food For Free is really pleased to be reaching more students and families with our Family Meals program this year. One of our newest distribution partners is the Somerville Family Learning Collaborative (SFLC). Family Meals Program Manager Fiona Crimmins started working with SFLC last October.

Food For Free recently chatted with Meghan Bouchard about this great program and the new partnership with Food For Free.

Food For Free: Tell us about yourself. What is your role?

My name is Meghan Bouchard and I am the Program Liaison for the Somerville Family Learning Collaborative (SFLC) which is the Family and Community Engagement Department of the Somerville Public Schools.

Tell us a bit about your program. Does it have a name? Who does it serve?

The SFLC runs programming that supports Somerville families, birth to adulthood. We have support groups for new parents/guardians, playgroups for families with young children, a home visiting program focused on early literacy skills, workshops on topics such as curriculum and learning or nutrition and wellness, English Classes for parents/guardians of Somerville Public School students, and more. 

The program I work most closely with is our multilingual team of Family and Community Liaisons who work with families at each Somerville Public School to help welcome families and connect them to school and community resources.

When and why was the program created? What need were you responding to? What problem were you trying to address?

The SFLC Liaison program, now in its fifth year, has worked hard to respond to school and family needs, and the issue of food security has always been in the forefront. The SFLC is now in its second year collaborating with the Somerville Backpack Program, also a partner of Food for Free, and now, in working with the Family Meals Program, we have been able to add to our capacity to meet the needs of the families we work with.



Somerville Family Learning Collaborative Liaisons
The Somerville Family Learning Collaborative Liaisons

What results are you seeing so far?

Between the Somerville High School Welcome Center and the SFLC office, we are so thankful to have Family Meals available for students and families who are dealing with food insecurity.  The meals are on hand and available to families and students we reach out to or who come to us for support.

 Any stories you’d like to share?

This year alone, the SFLC has worked with numerous families in crisis situations, and we are thankful to have the Family Meals program as a resource for those in need.

Thank you, Meghan! We're so grateful for your work with Somerville Families and your partnership with Food For Free. Have students at the Somerville schools and want to connect with the SFLC? Find your liaison here.
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And an Operations Coordinator!

Summary
Food For Free is hiring a part-time Operations Coordinator to 1) provide logistical support to Food For Free programs, including school markets and Family Meals; 2) rescue and deliver food; and 3) provide administrative support to the Operations Director. This position is 20 hours/week, pays $15/hour, and reports to the Operations Director.

Key Responsibilities Include:

Food Rescue and Delivery
  • Rescue food from supermarkets and other locations to deliver to recipient agencies.
  • Rescue produce from farmers’ markets (seasonal)
  • Fill in for other drivers in the event of absence
Program Support
  • School Markets
    • Coordinate and deliver rescued bread, purchased produce, and other food items
    • Coordinate Greater Boston Food Bank order with Program Director
    • Provide day-of support for school markets
  • Family Meals
    • Coordinate with Family Meals Program Manager to develop and maintain an efficient stock rotation protocol
    • Deliver and pickup food for Family Meals Administrative Support
    • Prepare reports and invoices
    • Maintain monthly food tracking spreadsheet

Skills & Qualifications
  • Commitment to social justice, and food justice in particular
  • Personal honesty and integrity
  • Maturity and sound judgment
  • A high level of organization and time-management skills
  • Ability to juggle multiple projects
  • Attention to detail
  • Proficiency with Microsoft Office products, including Word and Excel
  • Ability to work occasional nights and weekends
  • Valid driver’s license with clean driving record
  • Ability to lift up to 50 lbs. repeatedly
  • Previous experience operating commercial vehicles (up to 26,000 lbs.GVW) or willingness to learn to operate vehicle type on narrow city streets and in traffic conditions
  • Willingness to work in all weather conditions in all seasons, including inclement weather, extreme heat and cold
  • Experience or willingness to learn to operate pallet jack.
  • Must be able to utilize mobile devices for daily record keeping

How to apply

To apply, please send cover letter and resume to Ryan Lee at operations@foodforfree.org.
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We are ALSO hiring a Program Assistant!

Summary

Food For Free is hiring a part-time Program Assistant for our Family Meals program. Family Meals re-purposes prepared foods into single-serving meals for people with limited access to kitchens. The Program assistant will 1) serve as a kitchen assistant; 2) provide general support to the Program Manager. This position is 15 hours/week initially, increasing to 20 hours a week in the near future. The Program Assistant will report to Family Meals Program Manager.

Areas of Responsibility
  • Meal Preparation: Assist in producing approximately 500 meals per week.
  • Food Safety: Ensure food safety practices in all aspects of food handling throughout meal preparation.
  • Volunteer Management: Work with the Program Manager to recruit, schedule, and manage volunteers in the production of meals each week.
  • Food Rescue: Assist in rescuing food from local university dining halls. Identify and sort rescued food suitable for the Family Meals program.
  • Other duties as assigned.
  Qualifications
  • Commitment to social justice, and food justice in particular
  • Interest in feeding families in need
  • Experience in food service industry
  • Servsafe certification (can be acquired shortly after hire)
  • Ability to work on your feet for several hours at a time
  • Ability to lift 40 pounds repeatedly during a shift
  • Comfortability managing and working with volunteers doing meal preparation
  • Ability and willingness to drive a cargo van in an urban environment a big plus
  • Ability to think on your feet and problem-solve
  • Maturity and sound judgment
  • A warm and professional demeanor
  • A high level of organization and time-management skills
How to apply

Send a resume and cover letter to Program Manager Fiona Crimmins via email to fiona@foodforfree.org.
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We’re hiring a Development Assistant!

With Veronica off to other adventures, Michelle is looking for some help.  We'll be collecting applications throughout January (or until we find the right fit) and hoping to bring someone on board in early February.

Summary
Food For Free is hiring a part-time Development Assistant to 1) manage our email and social media communications; 2) provide administrative support to the Development Director; and 3) support fundraising and marketing events for the organization. This position is 12 hours/week and reports to the Development Director.

Responsibilities

Email/Social Media/Website:
  • Write, format, and schedule emails
  • Manage email list
  • Manage and write social media content, with input from Development Director and other staff
  • Update website content, as needed
Administrative Support:
  • Enter contributions into fundraising database (Fundraiser Select)
  • Generate and mail thankyou letters
  • Support direct mail (appeals) and other correspondence
  • Prepare and deliver bank deposits
  • Other duties as assigned
Event Support:
  • Provide on-site support for events, including Empty Bowls (Apr. 22, 2017) and the Party Under the Harvest Moon (Oct. 20, 2017)
  • Recruit, schedule, and manage volunteers for events
  • Maintain event supplies
  • Support Auction Manager with item solicitation, donor correspondence, data entry, and night-of-even logistics
Skills & Qualifications
  • Commitment to social justice, and food justice in particular
  • Personal honesty and integrity
  • Maturity and sound judgment
  • Ability to handle confidential information with sensitivity
  • A warm and professional demeanor, in person, on the phone, and in written communications
  • A high level of organization and time-management skills
  • Ability to juggle multiple projects
  • Attention to detail
  • Solid prose
  • Ability to craft engaging and appropriate content for Facebook, Twitter, and other social media
  • Proficiency with Microsoft Office products, including Word and Excel
  • Familiarity with, or the ability to learn quickly, content management systems (WordPress)
  • Familiarity with, or the ability to learn quickly, fundraising software (FundRaiser Select)
  • Familiarity with, or the ability to learn quickly, email marketing platforms (Constant Contact)
  • Ability to get to events in Cambridge, Somerville, and Boston
  • Ability to work occasional nights and weekends
  • Ability to work in a variety of settings, including the Food For Free office, and loud, crowded events
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How to apply
Send a resume and cover letter to Michelle Holcomb via email to development@foodforfree.org.  
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Supporting a new kind of student at Cambridge College

College student. What comes to mind when you read those words? Many people picture college students as 18-22 years old, earning a 4-year degree, living on campus, perhaps receiving financial support from parents, perhaps anxious about paying back loans, or perhaps both. In reality, this kind of student is now in the minority. Our newest collaboration is with Cambridge College, just down the street from Food For Free. Their classes are filled with the so-called “non-traditional” students who now make up the majority of U.S. higher ed students, and we're now supporting two programs to help meet these students' unique needs, Coffee Hour and "Healthy Body, Healthy Mind."

A juggling act

Reverend Cheng Imm Tan is the Community Manager for Student Support at Cambridge College and she wants to help her students succeed. “You might not know, but 40% of our students make less than $25,000 a year,” she tells me. The average student age at Cambridge College is 36 years old, and a majority are juggling their studies alongside work and family commitments. Bunker Hill Community College's Wick Sloane writes powerfully about student needs, saying, “Some weeks, I have spent more time helping students sign up for food stamps than I have correcting essays.” Many people don’t think of college students as having to worry about childcare, full-time jobs, or feeding their families, but these concerns are very real for many students. “One problem for adults is the constant, competing tension between life obligations and educational obligations. Life obligations often come first,” says Jamie Merisotis, president of the Lumina Foundation for Education. Reverend Tan says that this balancing act is the biggest concern her students face. “It causes a lot of stress and anxiety,” she says. Coffee Hour and "Healthy Body, Healthy Mind" are aimed at relieving some of that stress.

Coffee Hour

“When we were doing Coffee Hour on our own, I would go out and buy store-bought cookies, and we would have maybe 20 people,” Reverend Tan explains. In September, the new partnership launched and she advertised that there would be fresh, nutritious, filling foods from Food For Free—and more than 75 people showed up. “I couldn’t put the food out fast enough,” she said. “The most popular items that went immediately were the salads, sandwiches, fruit cups and yogurt...The boost in attendance is directly related to the quality of food that we're getting—good, healthy food instead of pastries. Coffee Hour is also aimed at fostering connection and community—perhaps especially important when you consider that 80% of jobs are filled through personal referrals. As Reverend Tan reports, “People felt really welcomed, really cared about, and it was really an almost festive environment. And, as much food as I thought I had, by the time six o’clock came around, I had nothing left.”

Healthy Body, Healthy Mind

"Healthy Body, Healthy Mind" is a two-part event for Cambridge College students: first, there’s a presentation about how nutrition affects mood, focus, energy, and general health. Then, there’s a Free Fresh Produce Market, where students can take home nutritious grocery items provided by Food For Free. Food For Free has seen success with our free markets in elementary and middle schools, as well as in the park during the summer, and Reverend Tan was sure that this event would meet some of her students’ needs, but once again, the turnout was even higher than expected: “We got two loads from Food For Free, and I thought, ‘Wow, I think this is going to be more than enough!’ But by the time 6 o'clock came, there wasn't a shred of lettuce or a stick of carrot left. Obviously, there is a huge need for good, fresh, healthy food.” Many students also appreciated the opportunity to learn about nutrition. In the words of one attendee, “What made the biggest impact on me was the part about the food-brain connection...Being a student myself, my academic performance depends quite a lot on my cognitive performance, so being reminded how certain foods can enhance our brain health was very valuable. Simple things like adding cup of blueberries, green vegetables, and some healthy fats can make tremendous difference.” Reverend Tan heard this from many students: “One attendee stopped by the next day and said ‘I made a vegetable fruit shake! I'm really trying to change and eat healthy.’” she shared. “But eating healthy costs a lot.”

Check out the rest of our Fall Newsletter!

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What we’re up to: Fall 2016 edition

  • Our programs keep growing:
    • Boxes prepped for Home DeliveryHome Delivery: We are proud to have expanded to serve everyone who had been on our waiting list! Through some creative collaboration with our partners, Homeowners Rehabilitation, Inc., we're now able to deliver Home Delivery boxes more efficiently, which in turn has allowed us to take on more clients. Huzzah for partnerships, which really do make our work possible.
    • CWBP 1Cambridge Weekend Backpack Program: We added three new schools this year, Cambridgeport, Amigos, and Baldwin. We're also noticing that more students are enrolling at our existing programs. Why? Our family liaisons explain that it can take time for families to come to trust in a program. We're glad to be earning that trust.
    • School Markets: We're now up to 4 free afterschool "markets", which serve elementary and middle school students at 7 Cambridge public schools. Our newest school market is the Peabody Market, which is available to families from Peabody School and Rindge Avenue Upper Campus.
  • New food donor partners:
    • new-food-donors-bu-bfresh-harvard-lawBoston University has joined us as a Food Rescue donor, by contributing surplus catering. Welcome, Boston University!
    • bfresh Brighton opened in August, and they've been donating food 6 days a week ever since. Huzzah!
    • Harvard Law School has joined us by donating their catering surplus for our Food Rescue programs. Delighted to have you, HLS!
  • New food programs & partnerships:
    • plymouth-congregational-belmont-soup-ministryPlymouth Congregational Church's Soup Ministry in Belmont has joined us as a recipient partner. We provide ingredients for their volunteers to cook into hearty, healthy soup, which then gets distributed through ABCD's Mobile Food Pantry.
    • We're now providing pantry items for Allston-Brighton Food Pantry.
    • Meditation as Medicine runs a meditation program for low-income folks in Harvard Square. We're providing fruit, snacks, and sandwiches.
    • At Cambridge College, we're providing salads, sandwiches, and ready-to-eat items for their student Coffee Hour, and produce and other pantry items for a monthly Free Fresh Produce Market.
  • New board members! We're bidding a warm welcome to:

Check out the rest of our Fall Newsletter!

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Spotlight on: Pine Street Inn, and our new partnership!

Click to see more gorgeous photos of our Pine Street Inn partnership in Suzanne Kreiter's photo feature in The Boston Globe. (Suzanne Kreiter/Globe Staff)Click to see more gorgeous photos of our Pine Street Inn partnership in Suzanne Kreiter's photo feature in The Boston Globe. (photo ©Suzanne Kreiter/The Boston Globe)
We want to introduce you to our new partnership with Pine Street Inn! It's gotten a lot of press lately: For nearly 50 years, Pine Street Inn has been welcoming homeless men and women and offering housing, food, and job training. For 25 years, Food For Free has run a small farm program, Field of Greens, distributing the produce throughout our 120+ partner agencies Last winter, Food For Free and Pine Street Inn cooked up a new idea: What if our small farm grew produce especially for Pine Street Inn and their specific needs? We've now completed the 2016 growing season, partnering with Pine Street every step of the way, and it's been a resounding success! Why? Four major reasons:

Quantity: 2,000 meals a day

Pine Street Inn prepares and serves 2,000 meals every day. "One dinner requires about 300 pounds of vegetables, just for one meal,” reports Executive Chef Frank Van Overbeeke. With Food Rescue, we can't promise what type of vegetables we'll have on any given day, or how much of each kind, but with the new Field of Greens partnership, we can offer predictable, large quantities of specific vegetables.

Quality: frozen to fresh

“We really don’t have a budget to get fresh produce...before we received food from Food For Free, we had to use frozen vegetables,” explained Chef Frank on WCVB’s Urban Update. Vegetables harvested from Field of Greens are typically delivered same-day, so they are fresh, tasty, and extra nutritious.

Job training: building food prep skills

As Pine Street Inn’s Lyndia Downie shared recently on WGBH radio, “We have a catering program, a social enterprise that we run, trying to get people jobs as they’re leaving homelessness. As Chef Frank explained on Urban Update: “There’s not a lot you can do with [frozen vegetables]: you put it in a pan, you steam it, and serve it. When we receive the fresh produce from Food For Free, it allows us to instruct our trainees on different techniques for how to slice the product, how to cook the product, how to be creative.”

Appropriateness: food that’s the right fit

“We were able to target every single crop to their menu,” said Sasha Purpura on WCVB's 5 for Good. Chef Frank was able to ask for vegetables that work best for his menu and team of trainees: “We’ll look at what we’ve got and say, ‘What do you guys think we can do with this? What did your mom used to do with this?’”

How to get involved:

Learn more about Pine Street Inn’s incredible work, and help grow the produce we provide for Pine Street Inn by volunteering on our farm.
Click to see more gorgeous photos of our Pine Street Inn partnership in Suzanne Kreiter's photo feature in The Boston Globe. (photo ©Suzanne Kreiter/The Boston Globe)***For use by Food for Free internal promotion only*** Lisa Edwards, an iCater trainee in the Pine Street Inn kitchen, prepares the scallions. (Suzanne Kreiter/Globe Staff)

Check out the rest of our Fall Newsletter!

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Meet Krissy and Fiona!

We're overdue for an introductory post about Krissy Scommegna and Fiona Crimmins! Krissy's been part-time with us for a year, and Fiona, a former volunteer, just joined us as a fulltime staff member in August. They're fabulous people, so please enjoy e-meeting both of them: Fiona: Krissy, how did you first get involved with anti-hunger work?
Krissy Scommegna, ladies and gents!

Krissy Scommegna, ladies and gents!

Krissy: I would say that it all started at a summer camp I went to. There was a mission program for hunger relief, and that’s when I became aware of hunger issues. That was in elementary school. But as an adult it all started this past year in graduate school [at the Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy]. Last fall I took a course about food justice and got hooked up with Ross at Food For Free. I spent the semester helping him and a group of students implement a system to provide students with emergency meals. I realized I really liked what I was doing so I asked Ross about an internship at Food For Free and they said “we’ll hire you!” So I've been working on Family Meals since last September, then Home Delivery since since last May. Fiona: Can you describe your role here at FFF? Krissy making Family MealsKrissy: I am the Home Delivery Coordinator and I have been working as the Kitchen Manager and Program Assistant for the Family Meals program. Fiona: What excites you about the Home Delivery Program? Krissy: We’re looking at people who can’t access food pantries and providing them an option for food that’s great. Like fresh produce from farms, and good food from Amazon. Generally just putting better food in their diet than they would have had otherwise. People come on the program and stay for 10 years, so it shows that people really rely on the program and make it a part of their lives. We’ve been expanding the program and it’s been really great this past month to contact people and tell them they're off the waiting list. Fiona: How do you spend your time when you’re not at FFF? Krissy: I’m a grad student at the Friedman School of Nutritional Science and Policy at Tufts. And I recently took over as the Director of the Somerville Backpack Program. Otherwise I spend a lot of time cooking and having dinner with friends at my house. Cooking is a really big part of my life, and being able to cook and feed people is what I really enjoy doing. _____________________________ Krissy: So Fiona, how did you originally get connected with Food For Free?
Fiona Crimmins, Program Manager extraordinaire!

Fiona Crimmins, Program Manager extraordinaire!

Fiona: I saw an ad on Idealist.org asking for volunteer help for last year’s Party Under the Harvest Moon. I knew of Food For Free because I had volunteered with local food pantries and was looking to do more work like that in the hunger relief world. Krissy: And what is your new role here at Food For Free? Fiona: I’m the Program Manager for the Family Meals Program. I’m taking over the program and trying to grow it. Krissy: What did you do before this? Fiona: I was a high school and middle school Latin teacher for 6 years in Belmont. Before that, I was an editor for different health and wellness publications. Krissy: What is exciting about this change from being a teacher to working at Food For Free? Fiona: I get to do work every day that helps people live their lives better and have access to healthy food!
fiona-dominic-at-flatbread-2016

Fiona at our Flatbread benefit night!

Krissy: What are you most looking forward to about working on the Family Meals Program? Fiona: I’m looking forward to taking this program that is in its infancy and exploring all the places it can go. I also want to figure out how to maximize its reach to help the most people possible. Krissy: Just so we can get to know you a little better, what is your favorite food? Fiona: I can’t say a favorite food, but my favorite cuisine is Indian. Krissy: And what’s your favorite thing to do for free? Fiona: Go running! Krissy: Any other interesting things you want to tell about yourself? Fiona: I had a pet goat as a child named Abby and I brought her to show and tell in nursery school. [break for a long discussion about the wonders of pet goats] Krissy: Welcome to the team, Fiona! We are happy to have you here! Fiona with a team of volunteers at Empty Bowls, helping demonstrate how much food goes to waste in the U.S.
Krissy (far L) & Fiona (far R) at Empty Bowls, helping us show how much food goes to waste in the U.S. by symbolically throwing away 4 out of 10 soup pots. (Don't worry—the pots were empty!)
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