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Food Harvest Cuts Waste and Hunger in the Community


Keeping with the spirit of the upcoming holiday, Hamilton’s Food Harvest connects students with the local community through environmental and humanitarian action. Through the program, now entering its fifth year, student volunteers collect and package food for delivery to charitable organizations in Utica, including the Rescue Mission of Utica and the Johnson Park Center. 

The program, initiated by Sam Carletta ’17 and Professor of Economics Paul Hagstrom, addresses two problems — decreasing food waste on Hamilton's campus and reducing hunger in Utica. Since the program’s creation, the Community Outreach and Opportunity Project (COOP) has taken over, engaging more of the student population. On any given week, members of athletic teams, Greek organizations, and other service groups can be found packaging leftovers from Commons and McEwen dining halls. Hamilton’s food service provider Bon Appetit has also become more involved with the program, from purchasing packaging for the “harvested” food to adding positions for student leaders involved with the effort. 

This year, Jack Wright ’19 serves as the COOP’s Sustainability and STEM Senior Fellow. He coordinates the Food Harvest along with Liam Prum ’20, who holds a position with Bon Appetit as food waste manager. Through their work, 12 new “harvest coordinators” have been added in order to maximize the efficiency of student work. Another new development this year is the weighing of the collected food, which allows both the COOP and the beneficiaries of the program to more effectively utilize the leftover nutritional resources.

Wright, an environmental studies and public policy double major, described his experience as a way to connect his academic interests with his affinity for service. “Just seeing the food that would otherwise go to waste, knowing that we can support our community, there’s really not a better solution than that,” he said.

It felt like a beautiful way to use the privilege of this institution to help other people. 

Prum also commented on the importance of the program. “To me, it seemed like a really good solution to address two issues I think are important: food waste, and the environmental catastrophe that that is, but also hunger as an American crisis that we are unable to address even in our developed nation. It felt like a beautiful way to use the privilege of this institution to help other people.” 

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