CommStudies major organizes ongoing campus food donation

Food from two Temple University dining facilities that has normally ended up going to waste is now feeding dozens of children at the Boys and Girls Clubs of Philadelphia.

Sophomore Nadia Ouazzi, a communication studies major in the School of Media and Communication, has worked with Sodexo, the company behind Temple University Dining Services, to come up with a way to safely collect and store leftover food to donate to those in need. The program started in March at the Diamond Club and expanded to the Valaida S. Walker Food Court at the Howard Gittis Student Center in April. The food collected at those two facilities is able to feed 60 to 75 children four days at week at the Fairmount and Wilson Park clubs.

In the program’s first month at the Diamond Club, 607 pounds of food were donated. Another 82.5 pounds of food were collected from the student center in just the first week of the program there. It will be expanded to Morgan Hall and the Louis J. Esposito Dining Center at Johnson and Hardwick Halls in the fall.

Ouazzi modeled the Universities Feed Program, or U-Feed, after the one her older sister, Louiza, started at Rowan University.

“She worked for catering and she would see all of the food being thrown out and was repulsed by it, because it was so much food – and it was good food,” Ouazzi says.

Inspired by her sister, Ouazzi started investigating America’s hunger problem and learned how some families have to choose between feeding their children dinner or paying the heating bill. She knew she had to bring U-Feed to Temple. “I figured that since she already worked through all of the rules and regulations, it was just really a matter of bringing it over here and getting everybody on board.”

That’s when she started picking up the phone, calling Todd Baker and Nate Quinn, who are Sodexo’s general manager and marketing manager at Temple, and the local Boys and Girls Clubs. She worked with them to create a system that works for everyone involved. The kitchen staff gathers and stores the food at the end of the meal to await a Boys and Girls Club representative the next morning. Each storage container is marked with its content (to flag any allergies), as well as the proper storage and heating temperatures.

“It’s not extra work, it’s really just different work. Instead of throwing it out, you’re just going to put it in the fridge,” Ouazzi says.

A meal is served at the Fairmount Boys and Girls Club. (Photo courtesy Boys and Girls Clubs of Philadelphia)

Charitable programs are nothing new for Sodexo.

“Sodexo saw the need to help improve the nutrition, health and wellness of the 50 million people in the U.S. who are food-insecure (16 million of them children),” says Samuel Wells, director of public relations. “It accomplishes that through food drives for local pantries, fund raisers for food banks, backpack and summer feeding programs for kids, food recovery projects and other efforts at the local level like the one at Temple.”

Sodexo’s STOP Hunger program spans six continents in 42 countries.

Kiana Edwards, Fairmount Boys and Girls Club unit director, says the youth at her club look forward to the meal each day. “They are often able to receive seconds or take some home to their family,” she says. “When Fairmount first started with this program, there were quite a few parents who were extremely delighted that they did not have to cook dinner some nights after working hard all day.”

Since the program at Temple has started, Ouazzi has spent time volunteering at the Fairmount Boys and Girls Club, too, and has experience the gratitude of the children and parents who benefit from her work.

“For me, I’ve never, ever gone hungry more than a hour, but then there is always food. I’ve never had to live like that, but I know that life exists on a really grand scale,” she says. “I think everybody can do something, but it’s about whether or not you see it as your responsibility. I decided to make it my responsibility.”