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Eastern Students Help Support Local Pantry

Written by Chris Herman

Willimantic, Conn. - The Food Justice Committee was formed in fall 2011 by Eastern Connecticut State University's Center for Community Engagement to address issues of food insecurity, poverty and education in the Willimantic community. Eastern student Becky Rushford recently contacted the Connecticut Food Bank (CFB) and asked for mobile food trucks to come to Willimantic to deliver fresh food to low-income families in the area.

Students on the committee have worked to establish a mobile food pantry through the CFB in Willimantic. The committee's goals include increasing donations of fresh and healthy food to local agencies, educating the community on how to prepare and cook healthy food, and developing a weekly after school program on nutrition and gardening.

In collaboration with the CFB, committee members participated in two gleanings at a local apple orchard. Gleanings are defined as picking through a farmer's leftover crop to salvage food for other uses. Members were able to pick 500 lbs. of apples that would have otherwise rotted, and donated them to Catholic Charities, the Salvation Army and the Covenant Soup Kitchen. The committee also seeks to raise awareness on campus through activities such as food audits of Hurley Hall, and raising awareness about food carbon footprints.

The committee is a connecting hub for food-related activities occurring on campus through clubs and classes, as well as off-campus activities.  Participating Eastern students included Whitney Allen, Bryan Lehner, Kate Harner, Lauren Greeney, Nicolle Hill, Nicole Brooks, Israel Bonello, Rebekah Rushford, Sabrina Scott, Megan Thomson, Jonathan Yackel and Heather Lepper.

Eastern faculty members teach courses every year that incorporate service into the curriculum. Students in a wide variety of disciplines gain practical experience and provide valuable services to the local community.

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