by Chris LeBoa '19
“Hey Mrs. Grant” I call out and wave to the always smiling matriarch of the East Palo Alto Senior Center.
“Hey honey” she responds while pushing an empty cart in front of her. “Just pull your car right in there. I have called some of my homeless friends and the people from Project WeHope to come by and get some food too”. We unload the boxes of produce, frozen chicken, loaves of bread and pasta from the car together, and she comments on almost every item that emerges from the trunk. “Oh the seniors are going to love this” she exclaims while holding up a box of leftover pastries from Meyer dorm’s ski trip. “Oh my friend Olga can take these to the people who live in an RV” Ms. Grant points to a box of apples and oranges left over from Arroyo’s trip. It is a process that has almost become routine as we try to redistribute Stanford’s excess to those in need locally.
At Stanford we have the luxury of food any hour of the day or night. Our student ID cards give us access to dining halls and cafes that greet us every day with platters and trays piled high with salmon, chicken, roasted vegetables, etc.
So many in the community around Stanford do not have the same privilege of having food on their tables or knowing where their next meal is coming from. The housing crisis in the Bay Area has forced many to make the hard choice of feeding their families, paying the rent, or paying for medical bills. Today over 1/3rd of school-aged children in East Palo Alto are homeless, according to a report by the Guardian.
Some at Stanford have have been working for many years to redistribute our leftovers to those in need. The Residential and Dining Services allow volunteers from Peninsula Food Runners to pick up leftovers from some dining halls weekly. Volunteers from the student group Stanford Project on Hunger (SPOON) collect forty to sixty pounds of food daily from Russo Café and the Faculty Club. The volunteers freeze the food and work with Ecumenical Hunger Program to get the food to their distribution centers.
Stanford Project on Hunger has also been working with Students for a Sustainable Stanford to collect leftover food from the row house kitchens at the end of each quarter, ski trip leftovers, athletic events, other catered events on campus.
While we try to do all that we can to redistribute food from campus to local communities we need more administrative support and action on this issue. A recent positive action is that a local nonprofit has offered us a refrigerated truck for our food collection purposes. However we are still plagued by challenges.
First, food rescue is labor intensive and we do not have enough volunteers or time to handle this almost full time job. I believe that Stanford should create a new full time position, an employee who would oversee the logistics of collecting from all dining halls, cafes, athletic concession stands, and large catered events.
Secondly, we lack the timely support of ASSU. When our freezers stopped holding temperature last quarter and we requested access to our reserve funds to purchase new freezers, they took more than a month to approve our request and have still not transferred the funds despite multiple visits and emails. This has prevented us from collecting any food from Russo Café and the Faculty Club because we do not have the appropriate storage to safely store the food until EHP volunteers can pick it up.
Lastly, if your dorm is going on a ski trip this weekend and you would like to donate the leftovers, or if you would like to get more involved please email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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