When the Southern campus had to close suddenly in mid-March due to the spread of the novel coronavirus in the state of Connecticut, among the many repercussions was the large amount of food Chartwells was left with, with no students, faculty, or staff to serve it to. But with a food recovery program already in place on campus, through a partnership between the Office of Sustainability and Chartwells, the food was able to be quickly delivered to members of the local community.
Student Derek Faulkner, an environmental systems and sustainability studies major, intern in the Office of Sustainability, and vice president of the Geography, Environment & Marine Sciences Club, sprang into action, working with fellow Sustainability Office intern Julian Saria and many members of Chartwells staff to package and prepare the food for pickup and delivery. Together, Faulkner and Saria delivered over 300 pounds of food to St. Anne’s Soup Kitchen in Hamden, Park Ridge Tower Affordable Senior Living in New Haven, and Monterey Place Senior Living in New Haven.
“There was a large amount of food that was not weighed due to the hectic nature of delivery that morning,” Faulkner says. “The head chef, Ernie Arroyo, really helped us out. We weighed about 200 pounds and a conservative estimate would be 300 total pounds. It was a mix of prepared food, packaged retail food, and bulk ingredients (salad bar, vegetables, pasta, meat, etc)” — all food that would have gone to waste if the Sustainability Office and Chartwells didn’t have a process in place for distributing food to the community.
About a quarter of New Haven residents don’t have enough food or enough money to buy food, and most people who can’t afford food don’t go hungry for just a day or a week — they experience food insecurity over long periods of time. The Food Recovery Network, the largest student movement against food waste and hunger in America, has created a sustainability network across the United States where “food recovery is the norm and not the exception.”
To address hunger in Greater New Haven, in 2015 the Office of Sustainability, along with Residence Life, partnered with Chartwell’s and the Food Recovery Network’s Connecticut chapter to collect excess unserved food from Conn Hall and campus food retail locations. The Office works with Haven’s Harvest for some of the deliveries, but most of the food is delivered by SCSU interns. The unserved food is delivered to soup kitchens like the one at St. Ann’s Church in Hamden. “Without the students, we wouldn’t have any of it,” says Suzanne Huminski, campus sustainability coordinator. Each semester, SCSU sustainability interns plan and manage all aspects of daily food recovery, including logistics, collection and delivery, scheduling, administrative meetings, tracking results, and communications with community partners. Faulkner credits Saria and Latasha (Tash) Neil as being the program’s coordinators.
The delivery of food this month happened under unusual circumstances, but thanks to the quick thinking and action on the part of Faulkner, Saria, and Chartwells staff, many Greater New Haven residents were able to enjoy food that otherwise would have been thrown away. “And what better timing to ensure food security for someone in need than right now during this pandemic, as food becomes less available,” says Faulkner.
And the generosity of Southern Owls continues: Heather Stearns, campus recycling coordinator, reports that over the March 21-22 weekend, when students moved out of the residence halls, the Sustainability Office did a non-perishable food drive and collected still more food that will be donated to community agencies. Stearns says, “I will be assessing how much food we have on hand later this week and coordinating with some of partners to see where we will be sending it.”