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Students Plan Nonprofit to Feed Homeless

By David Adams

 

According to bread.org, about 50 percent of Americans will live in poverty at some point before they reach the age of 65.

Just outside the University of Tampa’s campus, we see people who live outdoors and, oftentimes, are without food. Poor choices may play a role in homeless peoples’ lives, but for others, it is a reality that they are forced into because of a poor economy.

More than ever, students are aware of how they can try to help. The University of South Florida, for example, has started a food distribution program. And some students at UT are donating their own time to bring meals to residents of downtown. Students have been talking about wanting to help, and in some cases, are taking
action.

Project Downtown Tampa (PDT), a nonprofit organization from USF that gives food to local homeless around the downtown area, is made up entirely of volunteers and is a budding charity organization.

According to Sayeef Mirzaa, former president and current volunteer of PDT, they are actively pursuing legitimate nonprofit organization status. This will allow them to claim the food that is given to the needy as an exemption and save money on taxes. Since PDT is not currently an official nonprofit organization, USF’s food distributor will not give excess meals to them. PDT primarily relies on Panera Bread for their excess food. Panera donates all of their leftovers once a week, forgoing a tax credit.

Sayeef said, “At times, it’s really frustrating to think of all the food that is being wasted throughout Tampa Bay.”

Other universities across the United States have also started to minimize food waste by creating salvage programs of their own (Stanford University, University of Vermont and Ithaca College are just a few). Pomona College in Claremont, CA even got a $10,000 grant from the Strauss Foundation Public Service Projects program to assist in the growth of their program.

“How to Start a Food Salvage Program,” published by SPOON, Stanford University’s student-run food salvage program, is a six-page paper that breaks down student-run food campaigns.

They stated that in most cases, a school doesn’t have to directly fund a food salvage program. All that is required are short courses of instruction on the proper handling of food.

Sodexo, UT’s food provider, would only have to give what excess food they have to volunteer students so they could transport it to a local shelter that is qualified to distribute it, like the Trinity Café on North Florida or Faith Café on Kennedy near Sterling Avenue.

Frankie Cider, a UT student said, “Me and my friends—two other guys—we go to the grill, and get like chicken tenders and we just walk around Tampa and give them out.”

A UT student named “Ally” said, “I took a to-go box from the cafeteria and gave it to a guy under the bridge.”

Wade Burghardt, Sodexo’s manager at UT office, could not be reached through various attempts, but Sodexo’s website shed light on what kind of company they are.Sodexo is a food service provider with over 120,000 employees in the United States alone.

The annual revenue for the corporation in 2010 was six billion dollars. They have won multiple awards for diversity and workplace equality, and lay claim to the titles of “One of the World’s Top 50 Green Outsourcing Suppliers” and “One of the World’s Most Admired Companies.”

As food facilities management experts, Sodexo is waste-conscious. The student body at UT is ready to assist Sodexo in their waste minimizing efforts; all that is needed is a green light.

Starting an organization is relatively inexpensive, and could benefit the University morally. With Sodexo’s help, we can attempt to give to our community, and help those who are unable to help themselves.

A large fear that most food service corporations have is liability for any illness that may happen when a person eats the salvaged food.

As the Stanford paper states “…once administrators feel comfortable with the project and [are sure] that they are not going to ‘get in trouble,’ they can be very supportive.”

Another benefit to working with a large company like Sodexo is that, once coordination is complete, the amount of food that can be salvaged is amazing.

Even without Sodexo’s assistance, students can take action. Be on the lookout for a petition to start a volunteer organization that will ask whether you would like the option to donate excess meals at the end of each week to the homeless.

“I never thought I would be homeless,” one homeless man said outside of Trinity Café Friday evening.

“I was on unemployment in Virginia for a year and three months, and I couldn’t find any other work.”

He didn’t want to be named, but repeated that he had never imagined being homeless. Marty, whose friends call him “Hogan” because of his striking resemblance to the wrestler, said, “There are an awful lot of people that do need [assistance].”

Any doubt about that you might have would immediately dissipate upon stepping into the Trinity Café, where hungry young children patiently wait to be fed and an exhausted mother tries to make sure they eat all of their vegetables.

For more information, or if you would like to help start the program at UT, email David Adams at dadams@spartans.ut.edu.

Dylan Vigliotti also contributed to this article.

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