Food for Thought: Meet Do Something Awards Finalist Ben Simon [INTERVIEW]

Photo: (Do Something Awards)

Photo: (Do Something Awards)

We get excited every time the Do Something Awards come around, but this year’s show is going to be especially amazing. MTV Act favorite and nerd prom queen Sophia Bush is hosting the show, and stars like Lucy HaleKelly Osbourne, J. Cole, and Jennifer Hudson are scheduled to attend! The best part of the night, however, involves 5 young finalists who are in the running for $100,000 for their world-changing organizations.

All of the finalists are under 25 years old, which makes their accomplishments even more inspiring. Because you can help vote for the activist you want to win the $100,000, we wanted to introduce you to the do-gooders. We’ve interviewed each finalist, so read up, choose your favorite, and scroll down to the end to see how you can vote for your pick. Even if your choice doesn’t win, it’s not all bad: the four nominees who don’t take home the grand prize will receive a $10,000 community grant for their organizations!

Here’s some food for thought: 22 million pounds of food are wasted every year on college campuses across the United States, while 49 million people in the country are hungry. Enter 23-year-old Ben Simon. His organization, Food Recovery Network, recovers leftover food from dining halls and donates it to local soup kitchens.  If that wasn’t enough, the Food Recovery Network already has 19 college chapters and has recovered 165,000 pounds of food!

Check out the interview with Ben below to find out who inspires him, what his wishes his world-changing superpower could be, and more.

ACT: Who is your Do Something role model?

BEN: A few years ago, I read a ton of Gandhi and was completely inspired. He only owned a handful of items, and was able to transcend materialism to find such genuine joy in service. He never retaliated violently and yet he never relented, eventually winning people over with love, courage and selflessness. The end result was a nation’s independence and the birth of a massively disruptive new model of social change built around nonviolence, later borrowed by Martin Luther King, Jr., Cesar Chavez, and countless others.

ACT: What is your favorite song to volunteer to?

BEN: “Where is the Love” by the Black Eyed Peas is a classic, feel good volunteering song.

ACT: What are your words to live by?

BEN: Two things are important in life: personal happiness and making the world a better place. For me these usually tend to come together. I think when people lose sight of these two things it’s all downhill from there.

ACT: What do we need to know about your organization?

BEN: Food Recovery Network feeds hungry people with delicious food that would otherwise be tossed out by college dining halls. We started 2 years ago at the University of Maryland where I go and have now donated over 165,000 pounds of food from 23 colleges across the country. It’s one of the fastest growing student movements in America and in 5 years we hope to donate 10 million pounds of food. But the most important thing anyone reading this needs to walk away with is that *we need YOU!* (see next question…)


Photo: Ben and his buddies collect leftovers.  (msnbc)

ACT: How can someone reading this get involved with your organization?

BEN: Help us build this movement by starting a chapter at your college, spreading the word to friends, or organizing an event to raise money for us! For every dollar we get, we donate 10 pounds of food to hungry people. Learn more about how to get involved by visiting our site or emailing! Also, like us on Facebook and follow @foodrecovery on Twitter!

ACT: You wake up with a world-changing superpower. What is it? 

BEN: This is hilarious because I just finished watching the whole first season of that old show “Heroes” on DVD. My world-changing superpower would be to give the best compliments in the world because even small words can completely turn someone’s day or even life around. The world needs more love!


Photo: Ben recovering food with his group. (Yahoo)

ACT: You wake up to a tweet from your favorite celeb offering to help your cause. Who is it and why are you freaking out?  

BEN: Either Leonardo DiCaprio, Beyoncé, or Macklemore because they hold huge appeal for our target audience of college students that we are working so hard to reach and inspire. And also because I enjoy wearing a wolf on my noggin.

For the first time ever, you can now vote for your favorite finalist via SMS. To vote for Ben to win the $100,000 grand prize, text: BEN to 38383. You can find more information about food recovery programs by visiting Food Recovery Network. For more ways you can fight hunger, check out the action widgets below.

Tune in to the 2013 Do Something Awards on VH1 tonight at 8/7c.

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Food Recovery Network

Food Recovery Network

Are you a college student who wants to fight hunger? Check out this org!

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Learn More About Hunger

Learn More About Hunger

The facts will surprise you. Learn more at Feeding America.