Students work an assembly line of packaging leftover food in Commons.
In a spirited and giving mood fitting for the holidays, students recently gathered together to participate in the ongoing “Food Harvest,” where volunteers collect and package uneaten food at the college’s dining halls every Saturday through Thursday.

The harvest effort first began when Sam Carletta ’17, a Levitt Center Social Innovation Fellow, received funding from the college to buy additional storage units for packaged food, as well as transportation to bring the food to places such as the Johnson Park Center in Utica. He proposed the project with Professor of Economics Paul Hagstrom as a way to reduce food hunger in Utica.

Clara Cho ’20 currently leads the initiative in its fourth year as a Community Outreach and Opportunity Project (COOP). Though she is the main coordinator, volunteers from other organizations on campus such as Slow Food, Hamilton Association for Volunteering, Outreach and Charity (HAVOC), and the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) also participate in the effort.

“Personally, I decided to take up the running of food salvage because I really enjoy doing volunteer work, and I feel strongly about preventing food waste, especially when there are so many people in Utica who need food,” Cho remarked. “It’s not a huge amount of work, and I’m so glad that there a lot of people who want to help.”

During the packaging process, volunteers collect food from the hot lines and place them into separate tins. After each tin is labeled, they are then moved into freezers, which is a job occasionally done by the volunteers themselves and at other times done with the help of the college’s Physical Plant. The group is currently working with the Rescue Mission of Utica to drop off the food there the following day.

Paige Hinchey ’21, who joined the volunteer effort this year, commented on the importance of the food salvage. “If we weren’t here collecting these giant pans, they’d just be thrown out into trash cans, which is just so much food that we’re wasting,” Hinchey said. “It’s sad because this food is made to be consumed, so I think it’s nice that we’re donating to people who can eat and enjoy it.”

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