Dozens of fruit cups, pizza, pre-made sandwiches, salad bar items, baked goods, and lasagna made their way to Whosoever Gospel Mission’s kitchen last Tuesday, just in time to provide Thanksgiving relief for the 53 residents who live there, many of whom were previously experiencing homelessness.
This initiative is the work of sophomore Judah Meyer who has chosen to focus on food insecurity for his CEL Capstone project. Meyer drew on personal experience from his previous school where he saw food insecurity firsthand. This inspired him to approach SCH’s Director of Food Services Chef Budd Cohen about starting a program to donate still-good food from SCH‘s cafeteria to an organization with need. Meyer had forged a relationship with Cohen after working at his Summerside farm-to-table specialty camp last summer. Cohen knew Whosoever Mission’s executive director, Heather Rice, and was able to facilitate a connection between the organization and Meyer, enabling SCH’s food to go directly to those in need living less than four miles from school.
When it came time to develop his project, Meyer learned that 16 out of every 100 households in Philadelphia are experiencing food insecurity, amounting to close to 250,000 people throughout the city, all while 206 million pounds of perfectly edible food ends up in Philadelphia landfills each year.
In order to hit the ground running and begin distributing food, Meyer initiated a partnership with Sharing Excess, an organization launched by a Drexel University student in 2018 (read his story here). Meyer has started the wheels in motion to have an official student chapter here at SCH.
As a chapter of Sharing Excess, Meyer receives specific guidance regarding food items eligible for donating, which operates under the premise: “We prioritize quality and only accept food that we would personally eat!”
“I am very excited about the project; Whosoever Gospel Mission does great work for our community and could use our help. It is rewarding to help our neighbors,” says Cohen, who helped to load six full milk crates last week. “The goods set aside are those prepared towards the end of the week and would not make it till Monday. Since we don’t have patrons over the weekend, we are happy to find a home for all of it."
Moving forward, Meyer plans to make a weekly drop each Friday—with items varying each week—and will track the weight of each donation using a hand-held luggage scale.
Meyer’s CEL faculty advisor for the initiative, Julie Knutson, shares, “In an ideal world, we wouldn't produce any cafeteria waste.” She further notes that this effort “is part of a larger initiative to make our faculty, staff, and students more conscious and responsible consumers.”
Across the U.S. and the world, K-12 schools, higher ed institutions, restaurants, and supermarkets are left with excess food at day or week's end. With this initiative, SCH joins a national/global movement to address food insecurity with surplus.
Main Image: Student Judah Meyer packs up excess food at SCH Academy to donate to Whosoever Gospel Mission through his CEL project.