Friendship Donations Network: Celebrating 30 Years of Rescuing Food

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Tompkins Weekly        6-25-16

By Meaghan Sheehan Rosen

The growing awareness of food waste and food rescue over recent years is a promising sign of sustainability. Several European countries have banned food waste. Across this country, states are committing to reducing food waste by encouraging businesses and institutions to donate food that is still edible and to compost food scraps. The federal government even established a goal to reduce food waste by 50 percent by 2030. The Tompkins County Legislature unanimously passed a resolution in support of the New York State food rescue and recycling legislation in March. Unfortunately, the Food Recovery and Recycling Act didn’t make it into the state budget this year, despite being proposed in 2017 and 2018. Although it was a missed opportunity for feeding hungry New Yorkers while fighting climate change, it’s only a matter of time. The beauty of food rescue is that it’s common sense and a win-win. Good for the triple bottom line: people, planet, and profit.

It’s impossible to justify the fact that 40 percent of food is wasted in this country, while 140 million Americans are considered poor or low-income, or 43.5 percent of the population living in poverty, and people of color are disproportionately affected. Take a moment to let that sink in. Read more about these shocking statistics at

Here in the Finger Lakes Region, we are fortunate to have a well-established network of food rescue and redistribution of healthy food, thanks in large part to the vision and dedication of Sara Pines, who in 1988 founded Friendship Donations Network (FDN), our local food rescue organization. FDN’s mission is to rescue fresh, nutritious food that would otherwise be thrown away from stores and farms, and redistribute it to neighbors in need throughout Tompkins County and beyond. We provide food donations to community organizations, free meal programs, food pantries, low-income housing communities, and other grassroots distribution. A full list of our food distribution partners is on our website at Each week 2,000 people are served, and nearly 1,400 pounds of good food is diverted from the landfill each day.

A network of 200 volunteers and one part-time employee accomplish those goals with the food donations from local supermarkets, bakeries, farms, colleges, and food processors. View our current list of food donors on our website.

Since its start in 1988, FDN has served a vital role in providing healthy food to needy households, while helping our community reduce the amount of useable food being thrown away. We were honored to be the recipient of the 2017 Non-Profit of the Year award from the Tompkins County Chamber of Commerce, an exciting way to launch our 30 year anniversary this past January.

Relationships are the essence of Friendship Donations Network. We support individuals and organizations that aim to address food-related needs of people in the community. Our model is designed to make it as simple as possible for someone who sees a need to do something about it. Please let us know if you know of a community program that would like to help distribute food, or if you know of a local business that could be added to our list of food donors.

A four-person family loses $1,500 a year on wasted food (

Did you know that dates on food products are not regulated by the government, but rather are suggestions from the manufacturer (with the exception of infant formula)? As a result, 90 percent of us throw away food too soon due to a simple misunderstanding about package dates. The national Save the Food campaign suggests the following:“For the most part, you can trust your senses to know when food has gone bad. Milk, yogurt, juice, sauces—they can all be subject to the sniff or taste test. Even meat that looks a little faded or gray is okay to eat. The products to be careful with are those they tell pregnant women to avoid—like deli meats and unpasteurized dairy products—and anything with mold.”

Don’t Let Your Veggies Grow up to be Compost! The sixth season of FDN’s Neighborhood Food Hubs starts on July 15 – making it easy for gardeners to share extra produce and eggs with their neighbors. Check out the 2018 schedule and map of locations throughout Tompkins County at

Are you passionate about saving food? Friendship Donations Network needs volunteers. There is a wide range of opportunities to get involved, from transporting food donations to answering the phone or serving on our board of directors. Learn more at

Meaghan Sheehan Rosen is Coordinator of Friendship Donations Network. Email; Phone 607-216-9522.

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