Published July 01, 2020 by Rebecca Goldfine

Joining Grassroots Effort, Olivia Groell ’22 Helps Deliver Farm Surplus to Food Pantries

Olivia Groell ’22 is part of a quickly growing start-up that is providing food pantries with millions of pounds of farm produce that would have otherwise gone to waste.
Olivia Groell
Olivia Groell ’22

This spring, two students from Stanford and Brown universities founded The FarmLink Project to address a disturbing side effect of the COVID-19 crisis. They started to raise money to buy up some of the acres of vegetables farmers couldn't sell to help feed the many people going hungry in an idled economy.

In just a matter of weeks, their efforts took off. Today about 200 college students are volunteering for FarmLink. By the end of June, the organization had facilitated the delivery of 4.2 million pounds of surplus produce to food banks around the country. Donations to the nonprofit support truckers and farmers in twenty-eight states, including Maine, according to Groell.

All this was organized by a group of twenty-somethings working from home on their computers.

Groell said she found the opportunity through LinkedIn. "After Bowdoin's campus closed in response to the pandemic, I found myself at home with free time to fill and the urge to make a positive impact to alleviate some of the ramifications of the COVID-19 crisis," she said. She is on FarmLink's "Impact team," which shares metrics and articles about their progress with donors and the public. 

This assignment aligns with her academic and professional goals. Groell is planning to switch her major from biology to math, and is interested in a career in data analytics and statistics. "I love the different kind of work you can do with a nonprofit, and it's cool the way you can use numbers to communicate," she said.

The internship is also serving as a stand-in summer job after a couple of other opportunities dried up due to the coronavirus. Now Groell said she plans to continue volunteering for FarmLink through the academic year and into the foreseeable future. She pointed out that even after the pandemic comes to an end, the problem of food waste will remain.

"I'm passionate about the mission," she said. "Everyone is putting so much effort into this; it is so impressive."