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Pomona College Students Rescue 400 Meals Per Week, Receive $10,000 to Expand Program

This year, in a student-led initiative, Pomona College has donated approximately 400 meals per week to feed local homeless people. It couldn’t have come at a better time with requests for food assistance at local food banks increasing 41% in the last year, according to the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank.

Every night during the school year, student volunteers have picked up prepared but unserved food from Frank Dining Hall and delivered it to the Inland Valley Hope Partners family shelter. On weekdays, Upper Room Church rescues unserved food from both Frank and Frary Dining Halls and delivers it to two sites in Pomona and sometimes a third in Fontana.

For Rochelle Williams, the shelter’s emergency housing coordinator, the donations have been a godsend. “The food program has taken a large burden off me. It’s been awesome. The donations have been enough for dinner [for the eight families], though I keep something in the freezer just in case…. I’ve gotten compliments on some of the meals, and it frees me up to spend more time on other meals and on necessary projects like creating an earthquake plan for the shelter.”

The program originated in the College-Town Committee of the Associated Students of Pomona College and was led by junior Tammy Zhu, the student government’s off-campus commissioner. The program operated with a crew of approximately 15 regular volunteers and support from David Janosky, general manager of Pomona’s Dining Services (who previously worked with a large Meals on Wheels program); Sodexo’s fight hunger campaign; dining halls staff who repackaged the food in the required containers; the Office of Community Programs; and the Hart Volunteer Center.

Leading the Food Rescue program allowed Zhu to act on her belief that “everyone has a right to food” and on her dismay at the increased demand at food pantries during the recession. “I think about food differently now.”

For spring semester co-coordinator Andrew Dugowson ’10, “recovering food is a big step on the march to sustainability [for Pomona], especially regarding meat which is so resource intensive to produce. The amount of water used to produce a pound of meat is staggering, and we deliver pounds of meat at a time. The program helps Pomona make maximum use of some of the resources it does use.”

In recognition of the program’s success, the program was awarded a $10,000 grant from the Strauss Foundation Public Service Projects program for expenses and to help begin similar programs at other college campuses.

Contacts have already been made with interested students and dining hall managers at other Claremont Colleges. Programs on other the campuses would be run by students at those schools. If similar programs are successful at all five undergraduate Claremont Colleges, organizers hope to salvage enough food to provide 1,000 meals per week. Food Rescue leaders also plan to contact other local colleges to discuss food salvage program possibilities on those campuses.

Student coordinators for Pomona’s summer 2009 and academic year 2009-10 program are Jessica Villasenor ‘11 and Zachary Stewart ’12.