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07-15-2016

Clarkson University Students Create Sustainable Food Donation Program

Clarkson University graduate Alex Rowe '16 always knew not to let any food go to waste.

Clarkson FeedsGrowing up in Isle La Motte, Vt., Rowe said her father taught her to finish everything on her plate as a courtesy to the millions of people in the United States and around the world who go without food. She didn’t see this same practice on campus and decided to work with Clarkson and Aramark, Clarkson's dining service, to do something about it.

Then in her senior year as an environmental engineering student, Rowe reached out to her classmates as well as faculty and staff to gain support. Together they formed Clarkson Feeds, a student organization that aims to recover food that would otherwise go to waste and donate it to a local charity.

"That's kind of ridiculous that food that is perfectly safe to eat is being wasted when it can be given to those who need it," Rowe said. "I can't stand the idea of people being hungry when food is going in the trash."

Assistant Professor of Physical Therapy Ali Boolani met with Rowe and other students to discuss their distribution network options. After months of research, Clarkson Feeds began their first donations this summer with food left over from the spring semester.

"Our goal is to reduce food waste and to make sure that we can get food to people who need it the most," Boolani said.  "We're taking leftover food from Aramark and donating it to Helping Hands of Potsdam to get it out to people who need it."

Aramark has a food donation program in partnership with the Food Donation Connection, which provides an opportunity to safely donate unused, unserved food to deserving non-profit organizations and hunger relief agencies in our communities.

Clarkson Feeds operates by coordinating with Aramark, which collects and stores recoverable food according to certain criteria and notifies Helping Hands of Potsdam of the food available. The student club then picks up the food from Aramark and delivers it to the organization, which distributes the food to families in Potsdam.

Clarkson Dining Services/Aramark Resident District Manager Manny Manno said there are processes and tools in place to make sure Aramark doesn't generate a lot of waste on campus, but when there is recoverable food from catering events, Clarkson Feeds works to make that food available to the community.

He said the partnerships with Helping Hands of Potsdam and Food Donation Connection provide the support materials needed to make sure the food doesn't go to waste.

"Community involvement is a core value of Aramark, and one of our goals is building community engagement," Manno said. "We are proud to support the Potsdam community through this food donation program."

Boolani said the North Country is considered a food desert -- an area where it is difficult for people with low incomes to access affordable or healthy food. Clarkson Feeds is currently limited to serving the Potsdam community, but Boolani said he would like to see the program expand beyond the campus and involve restaurants and other food vendors.

He added that he has been impressed by the dedication of the students -- including physician assistant studies graduate students Sarah Alwardt of Rochester, N.Y, Allison Cady of Whitesboro, N.Y., and Jennifer Hale of Scotia, N.Y., and innovation & entrepreneurship student Jacqui Hart '16 of Holliston, Mass. -- to launching Clarkson Feeds and helping the community on top of their many academic commitments.

"Their academic programs are not easy by any stretch of the imagination, and they're still finding the time to do this," Boolani said. "That says a lot about them as people, and I enjoy working with them."

For more information on how to get involved in Clarkson Feeds, contact Ali Boolani at aboolani@clarkson.edu .

Clarkson University educates the leaders of the global economy. One in five alumni already leads as an owner, CEO, VP or equivalent senior executive of a company. With its main campus located in Potsdam, N.Y., and additional graduate program and research facilities in the Capital Region and Beacon, New York, Clarkson is a nationally recognized research university with signature areas of academic excellence and research directed toward the world's pressing issues. Through more than 50 rigorous programs of study in engineering, business, arts, education, sciences and the health professions, the entire learning-living community spans boundaries across disciplines, nations and cultures to build powers of observation, challenge the status quo, and connect discovery and innovation with enterprise.

Photo caption: From left to right, Clarkson University Assistant Professor of Economics & Financial Studies Gilberto Marquez-Illescas; physician assistant studies graduate student Jennifer Hale of Scotia, N.Y.; physician assistant studies graduate student Allison Cady of Whitesboro, N.Y.; environmental engineering student Sonja Gagen '18 of Aspen, Colo.; physician assistant studies graduate students Sarah Alwardt of Rochester, N.Y,; environmental engineering graduate Alex Rowe '16 of Saint Albans, Vt.; and Assistant Professor of Physical Therapy Ali Boolani meet to discuss Clarkson Feeds deliveries. Clarkson Feeds is a new student organization that aims to recover food that would otherwise go to waste and donate it to a local charity.

[Photograph for media use is available at http://www.clarkson.edu/news/photos/clarksonfeeds.jpg ]

[News directors and editors: For more information, contact Annie Harrison, Director of Media Relations, at 315-268-6764 or aharrison@clarkson.edu.]

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