Sophomore helps surplus meet scarcity

Posted 12/7/23

Dozens of fruit cups, pizza, pre-made sandwiches, salad bar items, baked goods and lasagna made their way to a local mission.

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Sophomore helps surplus meet scarcity


Dozens of fruit cups, pizza, pre-made sandwiches, salad bar items, baked goods and lasagna made their way to Whosoever Gospel Mission’s kitchen last Tuesday, just in time to provide Thanksgiving relief for the 53 residents who live there, many of whom were previously unhoused. 

This initiative is the work of Springside Chestnut Hill Academy sophomore Judah Meyer, who has chosen to focus on food insecurity for a project he is developing through the school’s student entrepreneurship program. 

Meyer drew on personal experience from his previous school, the city of Philadelphia’s Masterman magnet school in Center City, where he saw food insecurity firsthand. 

This inspired him to approach SCH’s Director of Food Services Chef Budd Cohen about starting a program to donate unused food from SCH‘s cafeteria to an organization that could use it. 

Meyer had forged a relationship with Cohen after working at his Summerside farm-to-table specialty camp last summer. Cohen knew Whosoever Mission’s executive director, Heather Rice, and was able to facilitate a connection between the organization and Meyer, enabling SCH’s food to go directly to those in need who are living less than four miles from school. 

When it came time to develop his project, Meyer learned that 16 out of every 100 households in Philadelphia are experiencing food insecurity, amounting to close to 250,000 people throughout the city, all while 206 million pounds of perfectly edible food ends up in Philadelphia landfills each year. 

To hit the ground running and begin distributing food, Meyer initiated a partnership with Sharing Excess, an organization launched by a Drexel University student in 2018. Meyer has started the wheels in motion to have an official student chapter at SCH.

As a chapter of Sharing Excess, Meyer receives specific guidance regarding food items eligible for donating, which operates under the premise: “We prioritize quality and only accept food that we would personally eat!” 

“I am very excited about the project; Whosoever Gospel Mission does great work for our community and could use our help. It is rewarding to help our neighbors,” says Cohen, who helped to load six full milk crates last week. “The goods set aside are those prepared towards the end of the week and would not make it till Monday. Since we don’t have patrons over the weekend, we are happy to find a home for all of it." 

Moving forward, Meyer plans to make a weekly drop each Friday – with items varying each week – and will track the weight of each donation using a hand-held luggage scale.

Meyer’s faculty advisor for the initiative, Julie Knutson, said that “in an ideal world, we wouldn't produce any cafeteria waste.” She further noted that Meyer’s effort “is part of a larger initiative to make our faculty, staff, and students more conscious and responsible consumers.” 

Across the U.S. and the world, K-12 schools, higher ed institutions, restaurants, and supermarkets are left with excess food at day or week's end. With this initiative, SCH joins a global movement to address food insecurity with surplus.