Brown student who co-founded Farmlink named National Medal of Honor Service Act winner

The founders of the Farmlink Project, including Brown senior Aidan Reilly, received the award for collecting surplus food from farmers and distributing it to food banks around the country during the COVID-19 pandemic.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — In an announcement made on National Medal of Honor Day, Brown senior Aidan Reilly was named a 2021 Congressional Medal of Honor Society Citizen Honors awardee for his work in founding the Farmlink Project, which fights food insecurity by repurposing surplus produce.

The Farmlink Project’s team includes students from colleges and universities across the nation, who joined forces in March 2020 after the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic. Farmlink co-founder James Kanoff, a student at Stanford University, was named an awardee along with Reilly.

According to the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, Reilly and Kanoff were chosen as recipients “for their selfless service as they responded to a nationwide crisis during (and because of) a global pandemic to create a grassroots initiative connecting farmers with surplus product to communities in need.”

When restaurants began to shutter because of the spread of COVID-19, farmers suddenly found themselves with excess food and no one to sell to. At the same time, a new surge of individuals and families — many out of work because of the pandemic  — began relying on food banks, which were experiencing shortages in supply.

After reading about the issue in the New York Times, Reilly reached out to an Idaho onion farmer who was about to toss his crop into a landfill and facilitated the redirection of food supply to food banks in Los Angeles. Reilly and Kanoff then rented a truck and delivered 11,000 eggs from a ranch in California to another Los Angeles food bank, rallied some friends and created the Farmlink Project.

Since then, in less than one year, the Farmlink Project has amassed over 200 volunteers nationwide and has rescued and delivered nearly 30 million pounds of produce to people in need.

“We are beyond grateful to even be considered for an award like this,” Reilly and Kanoff said in a statement upon receiving the society’s Service Act award. “Truthfully, the Farmlink Project’s work is a result of the hundreds of young volunteers across the country fighting day and night to keep families fed amid the pandemic. Our work is far from done, and we hope this award can help create lasting change for people and our planet.”

The Congressional Medal of Honor Society will recognize Reilly and Kanoff, along with the other Citizen Honors Award for Service Act awardees for 2020, in a July 14 ceremony, where they will accept the award on behalf of the Farmlink Project.   

In addition to Reilly, the Farmlink Project team includes Brown students Will Collier, who earned his degree with the Class of 2020, Ben Collier, Jordy Hartzell, Max Goldman, Manny Castro, Sierra Fang-Horvath, Patrick Nasta, Katie Dvonch, Abby Healy, Max Haigney, Ava Schully, Grace Austin and Sam Masto.

Each year, the society selects individuals in four categories and one organization to receive Citizen Honors Awards, which honor those who exemplify the values embodied in the Medal of Honor awarded to members of the U.S. military: courage, sacrifice, commitment, integrity, citizenship and patriotism.