Beeta Ansari

Beeta is Ashoka U’s Exchange Director, the world’s largest global convening for social entrepreneurship education.

Changemakers of the Week: Ben Simon and Lauren Behgam

This week’s Changemakers’ of the Week, Ben Simon from University of Maryland, and Lauren Behgam, from Brown University, tell us more about the Food Recovery Network, a student led non-profit that recovers and donates food from college campuses to those in need.

Ben and Lauren are being featured as part of Ashoka U’s new series, “Changemaker of the Week” which highlights extraordinary student changemakers in college and graduate programs around the world. Check the Ashoka U Blog each week for a new changemaker of the week!

1) What is the Food Recovery Network?
The Food Recovery Network (FRN) is a student led non-profit that brings together university students to tackle hunger by recovering surplus, edible food that would otherwise go to waste from their campuses and surrounding communities and donate it to those in need. Since it’s founding in September of 2011, FRN has spread to 23 college campuses and has recovered over 166,000 pounds of food.

2) How did each of you get involved with the Food Recovery Network?
Ben founded the first chapter at the University of Maryland, College Park, organization after seeing perfectly good, edible food going to waste in his dining hall. From there, FRN spread to Brown University, where Lauren Behgam was a member of the organization’s first leadership team.

3) How has being college students changed the way you act as a changemaker?
Being a college student is a huge plus to being a changemaker because universities provide so many resources and much needed support for students doing this type of work. Another benefit is that you are surrounded by other young people on campus that are passionate about turning ideas into action to make the world a better place.

4) What’s the best part of working on your venture?
It’s so powerful to know that we can make a huge impact, even though we are still college students.

5) What’s one piece of advice you would give to any college student thinking of becoming a changemaker?
Just go for it! Don’t be held back by assumptions of how hard it may be or how much work it will be. It’s absolutely worth it if you are working on a project that you are passionate about.

6) How has your school or school’s social entrepreneurship initiative helped you progress as a student social innovator in this venture?
Ben: The University of Maryland, College Park has made innovation and entrepreneurship the flagship initiative of the university. It’s been really incredible to have all these resources emerging — we were propelled by winning UMD’s first Do Good Challenge put on by the School of Public Policy’s new Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership. We’ve also received a lot of mentorship and other resources from the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship, Center for Social Value Creation and individual professors. The university even paid to put a huge ad with FRN on the side of DC area metro buses as part of their Fearless Ideas marketing campaign. Finally, we moved into this awesome student-run incubator space called the Startup Shell. UMD is quickly becoming one of the social entrepreneurship hubs of the higher education world.

Lauren: The Social Innovation Initiative at Brown has been a huge supporter of me and the work I do with Food Recovery Network. I am currently a member of the Starr Fellowship, which trains, funds, and mentors student social entrepreneurs at Brown. The Fellowship has been an incredible learning experience and has connected me to incredibly exciting individuals and organizations in the social enterprise space.

More information about Lauren and Ben will also be featured on social media this week so be sure to follow Ashoka U on Twitter and Facebook!