Service-Learning Projects in the Diamondback

Service fraternity Alpha Phi Omega was featured this morning in the University of Maryland Diamondback:

“It was food-collection Friday, and Evan Ponchick cruised through the dining hall, reminding Dining Services employees – many of whom he knew by name – to save their leftovers.

After writing a thesis on how to reapportion dining hall waste, Ponchick, a junior operations management major, decided to turn his ideas into reality. He, along with fellow members of the community service fraternity Alpha Phi Omega, began collecting all of South Campus Dining Hall’s leftover food this semester and donating the extras to So Others Might Eat, a Washington-based charity. About 900 meals have been given to the organization thus far.

Every week, the group traipses into the dining hall, asking all employees to save the food that would normally be tossed into the trash for careful packaging. Once collected, the food is transported to SOME later in the evening.

Ponchick asks employees to keep all items Dining Services won’t reuse – such as pizzas, rice, fried and baked chicken, hamburgers, broccoli and more. These tins of food are then carried into SOME, which is located in Northwest Washington.

Ponchick first discussed his plan with Dining Services Director Colleen Wright-Riva and Chef John Gray, the Dining Services adviser to the project, last fall.

The initiative, which officially began at the beginning of the semester, is now in its fifth week, and each Friday has donated between 100 and 300 meals.

This Friday, the group received its lowest number of meals – 100 – because Clucker’s, the food station that sells potatoes, macaroni and cheese and other sides, was closed that day.

Despite last week’s setback, Gray said the results have been great so far and Dining Services hopes to see the project expand to Wednesday nights within the next couple of weeks. Next year, Dining Services may work to implement the program in The Diner as well.

“Dining Services has been very supportive of the effort,” Ponchick said, adding it has been a win-win endeavor for both the university and the charity.

It holds the university accountable for minimizing waste while putting those unavoidable leftovers to use: They feed a small portion of the 20 percent of Washingtonians living below the poverty line.

“I think it went really well, and I know the SOME people are ecstatic about the food they’ve been receiving,” Gray said.

APO member Aaron Hamilton, a senior economics major, said in addition to benefiting the community, the project has also made him more aware of not wasting food in his own kitchen.

Nicole Prentice, a sophomore sociology major, said she’s always been passionate about alleviating hunger and homelessness and is excited to be involved in this project.

“I’m surprised we didn’t have something like this sooner,” she said.”



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