Lycoming College students help to fight hunger

Five nights a week, students at Lycoming College package up the food left from dinner and take it to the men’s shelter at the American Rescue Workers. The project, which the school has participated in since 2014, contributes between 3,000 and 4,000 pounds of food to the shelter a semester.

“I want to stay active and involved,” senior Jakob Lewis, a business major, said of the project.

“To see how it affects the community, it’s awesome,” junior Braeden Gonzales, Food Recovery Project coordinator and a chemistry major, said.

Three sororities and two fraternities rotate the responsibilities of readying the food and delivering it to the shelter on Elmira Street. On Thursday night, students from Phi Kappa Psi worked in the cafeteria, which staff said generally serves 600 or more students dinner. Other nights, fraternity Lambda Chi Alpha and sororities Alpha Xi Delta, Gamma Delta Sigma and Beta Phi Gamma perform the community service.

Lewis, the community service chair for Phi Kappa Psi, said that he saw the impact of homelessness growing up in Baltimore.

“It’s really taught me some humility,” he said.

Lewis and Gonzales noted that, with new management, Lycoming College’s cafeteria has offered a menu with greater variety and healthier options, which in turn helps the men staying at the American Rescue Workers shelter.

“They’re very grateful for the food,” Gonzales said.

The donations from Lycoming College add more variety to the meals at the shelter, Valerie Fessler, community engagement and development officer for the American Rescue Workers said. She recalled her first meal at the American Rescue Workers, a breakfast where people where eating bacon-wrapping filets with their eggs because Lycoming College had celebrated a banquet the night before.

“The men love the food,” she said.

The project saves funding in the organization’s food budget and provides relief to the shelter’s small kitchen staff, as it already comes prepared, Fessler said. With more than 76,000 meals served to men, women and children a year, both the financial savings and reduction in time spent preparing food are “a blessing,” according to Fessler.

“The project is incredible for the American Rescue Workers,” Fessler said. “There is an incredible cost savings for us.”

Gonzales noted the project accomplishes several goals — in addition to providing meals to struggling community members, it offers an opportunity for students to contribute to the city while promoting sustainability.

“It’s just eliminating waste,” he said. “I like playing a part in general in sustainability.”

“None of this would be possible without Braeden,” Lewis said.

Gonzales said other sustainability projects for Lycoming College include solar panels on the roof of the Heim building, reducing the use of straws, giving every student with a meal plan a reusable mug and terracycling — a process by which things like foil chip bags, make-up bottles and shampoo bottles can be recycled. The school also participated in Recyclemania, in which colleges compete to see who can recycle the most for prizes. Additionally, members of the sustainability committee attend conferences to learn new ideas for projects and ways to improve existing projects.