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Students Create Community Collaboration to Combat Food Waste and Food Insecurity

By Nicole Carrera

Published on April 21, 2021

The USciences Environmental Conservation Organization (ECO) focuses its work on creating an environmentally conscious campus and advocating for environmental issues in the community. As the COVID-19 pandemic caused shutdowns and unemployment in the local Philadelphia community, ECO President Kishan Patel PharmD’23 and Vice President Daphne Van Der Molen ES’23 shifted their focus to helping the community in need. 

“One specific problem that Daphne and I wanted to focus on was food insecurity,” Patel explained. In their research, Patel and Van Der Molen discovered Philabundance, a non-profit food bank that serves the Philadelphia and Delaware Valley region. 

“To us, food waste was not just environmentally significant, it was something that we knew related to food insecurity which impacts many individuals in the Philadelphia area,” shared Van Der Molen. “It took some learning curves for us to figure out what the best system was to communicate with everyone to carry out donations as smoothly as possible.”

Patel and Van Der Molen enlisted the help of ECO faculty advisor Jason Heindl PhD, USciences’ Vice President of Community and Government Affairs David Forde, Cheyanne Pritchard, program manager at Philabundance, and Todd Young, general manager of the University’s dining provider, Sodexo. Together this group worked to coordinate the collection of excess food from the University to be picked up by Philabundance and distributed to the community. 

Food Pickup Event

During the Fall 2020 semester, the ECO team and Sodexo coordinated five deliveries, donating an estimated 836 individually packaged food items from the University’s retail sites, as well as any remaining food from catered events.

Van Der Molen explained, “As this was the first semester we ran the program we came across some hiccups along the way, however, we have learned throughout the process and we expect that in the future deliveries will be much more frequent.”

Both Patel and Van Der Molen expressed interest in keeping this project alive and growing for years to come. “One of our goals is that this project will remain in operation even after Kishan and I have graduated.” shared Van Der Molen. Patel continued, “We would love to have other student organizations on campus help us volunteer in packaging food and scheduling deliveries.”

In addition to helping the environment and those in need in the community, this project has had a profound impact on those involved. In February 2021, Patel and Van Der Molen received the Undergraduate Student Merit Award at USciences’ 200th Founder’s Day celebration. 

“As a future pharmacist, I will always use this experience to remember how important it is to give back to your community, especially in times of need,” Patel shared. “I strive to be so much more than a pharmacy student. The opportunity to be ‘Proven Everywhere’ starts right here at USciences.

Categories: News, Students, Community Service, Philadelphia, Community, Student Life