HERNDON, VA — Like many people, Leah Fri’s life has been disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic. But, she hasn’t let that stop her from doing something positive with her time.

When Fri found herself back home and out of a summer internship, she began volunteering for FarmLink, a grassroots effort to prevent food waste and alleviate food insecurity during the pandemic.

“This was such a good opportunity,” Fri said. “Not only will I be doing good for the community but the entire country.”

Back in March, the rising senior at James Madison University was traveling with friends, when she first found out they’d be studying online after spring break due to the coronavirus. Eventually, the entire spring semester was conducted remotely.

“It’s all pretty crazy,” the Herndon native said. “Obviously, none of us have really experienced something like this. It was nice to be home and all, but definitely unfortunate that we finished online. It’s definitely harder online than being on campus.”

To make the situation worse, Fri, who is studying hospitality management with a minor in human resources development, was looking forward to an internship this summer at a hotel in D.C.

“I was supposed to be doing events and sales, but obviously there are no events this summer, so that fell through,” she said.

With nothing to do and plenty of time on her hands, Fri looked on the internet for volunteer opportunities. That’s where she found FarmLink.

Two Stanford University students started FarmLink at the beginning of March after learning that food banks in their area were experiencing food shortages and increased demand due to the coronavirus. When they heard a nearby farmer was about to dispose of thousands of eggs because he couldn’t transport them to market, they rented a truck and delivered the eggs to a local food bank. From that start, they turned their grassroots actions into a nationwide initiative.

“It’s just a ton of college students connecting farms to food banks,” said Fri, who’s a member of FarmLink’s fundraising team. “The money that we’re fundraising for is to compensate for the farmers and the transporters to keep the farms running, to limit food waste, and to transport the food to food banks around the country.”

Fri plans to volunteer through the rest of the summer and continue after she returns to JMU in August.

“We’re going to keep continuing and growing,” she said. “There’ll definitely be some changes when we go back to school, but I’ll definitely try to continue to support and stay with FarmLink.”

Before joining FarmLink, Fri didn’t know a lot about food insecurity, but it’s something she thinks more people need to be aware of, especially during to the pandemic. For example, with schools closed, many students in need were no longer able to access free lunch programs.

“It’s taking a big toll on millions of families around the country,” Fri said. “I think that this organization can really make a difference and a change if we continue to grow and get people involved.”

Additionally, FarmLink has prevented more than 11 million pounds of carbon dioxide emissions by helping to cut down on food waste.

“Anything that we can do, whether it’s volunteering to help transport food from farms to food banks or fundraising money around your local community, it’s going to do something for a lot of people and families and farmers,” Fri said.

More information about making donations and volunteering can be found on FarmLink’s website.

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This article originally appeared on the Herndon Patch

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