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Westfield State Dining Services partners with Rachel’s Table to donate food to those in need

Westfield State University and Springfield-based Rachel’s Table have created a partnership to recover food from the University’s Dining Services and distribute it to local agencies to help area residents in need. Donations and food rescue are already underway. The project was conceived and orchestrated by Westfield State student Brandon Sullivan.

A sophomore from Wellesley, Mass. majoring in biology and health sciences, Sullivan was challenged by a semester-long project in his Medical Ethics course, taught by Associate Professor Karen Sladyk, Ph.D., to take a step toward solving a public health issue.

“With some experience working in food services, I was shocked at how much food otherwise goes to waste,” said Sullivan. “I thought that Westfield State could make a difference by redistributing extra food that it prepares.”

Sullivan reached out to Andrew Mankus, director of Westfield State Dining Services, who confirmed the University’s interest in the project, and connected with Rachel’s Table. Rachel’s Table is a program of the Jewish Federation of Western Massachusetts. The program works with over 200 volunteers to redistribute food in order to alleviate hunger and reduce the waste of food resources in Western Massachusetts.

“Dining Services is thrilled to partner with Rachel’s Table,” said Mankus. “Using any available leftover production in the kitchens across campus we recover foods that would otherwise be discarded as compost and redistribute it to those in need. As we continually increase the percentage of ingredients and products sourced locally, donating our extra food to the local community makes perfect sense.”

Jodi Falk, director of Rachel’s Table, was excited for her organization to establish a partnership with Westfield State. “Rachel’s Table, a food rescue and redistribution program since 1992, serves over 40 agencies in Hampden and Hampshire Counties, and now is expanding into Franklin County. However, we have not, until now, served communities and rescued food in Westfield,” said Falk.

Since this partnership project began, Rachel’s Table has added Westfield’s C&S Wholesale Grocers to its list of food donors and is hoping to encourage more food donation from caterers, supermarkets, bakeries, and restaurants. The program also hopes to add local recipient agencies and invite volunteer drivers from Westfield to join the Rachel’s Table team.

“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–have created a sustainable project that is both impactful and meaningful,” added Falk.

The donations from Westfield State began in early April, as volunteer drivers from Rachel’s Table picked up food once a week and delivered it to the Springfield Rescue Mission. Sullivan has contacted an agency in Westfield to receive Westfield State’s donations in the near future, so that the resources can serve local residents.

“I hope that this continues and grows so we can help more people,” Sullivan concluded.

Helping people is a personal theme for Sullivan, a member of the University’s Emergency Medical Services Club, who hopes to attend medical school after he graduates from Westfield State in 2021.