For College of Charleston senior and biology major Stephen Frederico, a conversation with an employee at a Charleston restaurant provided the inspiration for a new student club.
“I learned that this restaurant throws away all of its leftovers at the end of the day,” says Frederico. “So I asked if I could take the pretzel buns they were planning on throwing out and pass them along to the homeless on my walk home.”
As Frederico walked along Calhoun Street and shared the food with people in need, he learned that they were extremely appreciative of what he was doing – but not necessarily in the way he was expecting.
“I realized that a lot of them don’t even want the food sometimes and that they really just want someone to talk to because they feel like everyone is looking at them differently,” he says.
Through these interactions, Frederico says he began to see the homeless people he was talking to in a different light. One person he met had been an artist, another had been a lawyer and another had a family. These conversations inspired him to start a project that he and his freshman year roommate, Eli Schuster, a public health major, had been hoping to create together. That project became a new CofC student club called Partners In Food.
With public health professor Paul Gangarosa serving as the club’s faculty advisor, Partners In Food seeks to decrease food insecurity in the Charleston area by redistributing food that would otherwise go to waste.
“I’ve learned a lot from Professor Gangarosa because he is already very involved in this field,” says Schuster, “and just from talking to people around campus, we’ve already had over 75 people interested in joining the club.”
Frederico and Schuster plan on incorporating the Food Rescue US app into the club’s efforts, which will enable students to easily locate farms and local businesses that are willing to donate food. Students will also have the option to deliver donated food to distribution centers.
The club will operate by splitting its members into two groups: students who recruit restaurants to donate food and students who pick up food from participating restaurants and deliver it to distribution centers.
To ensure active participation, Partners in Food aims to make club membership as convenient as possible for students. Because such a big turnout is expected, the club has opted to send out newsletters in place of in-person meetings to accommodate busy schedules.
The club has high hopes for expanding from food-related goals to other forms of outreach, such as educating students on homelessness through different events.
“Partners In Food intends on collaborating with other organizations on campus and even host an event with a guest speaker who is highly regarded in Health Policy,” Schuster says. “We want to be able to help provide solutions to reduce food waste, while being advocates for finding ways to improve the lives of those in the community.”
Because this is their final year of college, Frederico and Shuster have set out to leave a positive impact on the CofC community with the time they have left as students.
“I’ve been touched by the outpouring of student interest in the club,” says Frederico. “Showing the homeless that people care about them and want them to do something positive with their lives will really make a difference.”
Kelsey Baum is a senior from New Jersey studying Communication and Italian Studies at the College of Charleston. She is also a member of the Martin Scholars Program and a freelance writer for Her Campus.
Featured image: Students Eli Schuster and Stephen Frederico are the creators of the new club Partners In Food. (Photo by Heather Moran)