By Troy Watkins
While working at restaurants in high school, Brandon Sullivan ’20 was shocked by all the food that went to waste. During his sophomore year at Westfield State, Sullivan was challenged by a semester-long project in a Medical Ethics course to address a public health issue. He came up with the idea to recover food from the University’s Dining Services and distribute it to those in need.
Sullivan, who is majoring in biology and health sciences, reached out to Westfield State Dining Services, which confirmed interest in the project; then he connected with Rachel’s Table, a program of the Jewish Federation of Western Massachusetts. Through Rachel’s Table, over 200 volunteers redistribute food to alleviate hunger and reduce food waste in Western Massachusetts.
During the academic year, since April 2019, Dining Services has collected any available leftovers in the kitchens across campus, freezing and packaging them for a weekly pickup by volunteers from Rachel’s Table. The food recovered would otherwise be discarded as compost.
The University’s donations directly benefit local organizations, including the Springfield Rescue Mission and Domus/Our House. More than 200 pounds of food is donated by Westfield State to Rachel’s Table each month, according to Westfield Dining Services Executive Chef Mary Reilly.
“Our relationship with Rachel’s Table has been invaluable to us, as it has brought an increased awareness around the issue of food insecurity so close to home,” says Reilly. “We are pleased to support shelters and centers in the Westfield area. In the future, it is my hope that we can continue to work with local food recovery and relief organizations, both on campus and in the larger community.”
Established in 1992, Rachel’s Table serves over 40 agencies in Hampden, Hampshire, and Franklin counties. Westfield State was the organization’s first partnership in the city, but Westfield’s C&S Wholesale Grocers joined Rachel’s Table’s list of food donors and is hoping to encourage more food donation from caterers, supermarkets, bakeries, and restaurants.
“It is because Westfield State was so willing to pick up on Brandon’s initiative and envision it as a sustainable program beyond the academic semester that we have been able to grow our impact in more of Hampden County.
The unique combination of stakeholders—student, teacher, food services, and Rachel’s Table volunteers—has created a sustainable project that is both impactful and meaningful,” says Jodi Falk, director of Rachel’s Table.
“We are in conversation with other area colleges to increase awareness and deliver excess.”
Sullivan plans to attend medical school after his 2021 graduation. He aims to make helping others his profession.