Dining services, students work together to feed New River Valley's hungry
Jacob Moyer of Chesapeake, Va., a freshman majoring in engineering in Virginia Tech's College of Engineering, has partnered with Virginia Tech's Dining Program and Student Government Association to launch a program to donate food to the Christiansburg Salvation Army.
The program started when Moyer contacted Ted Faulkner, associate director for dining, with an interest in delivering excess food from the dining centers to a soup kitchen in the Blacksburg area.
“We’ve always had a few groups a year ask about donating food, and we were always willing, but we never found anyone who could actually put a program together that would meet the needs of all parties involved,” said Faulkner.
Because the dining program is supported by student fees and dining plan purchases, it could not incur any extra cost collecting and delivering the food, and pickups needed to be scheduled on a daily basis. Also, organizations that receive donations must secure a state health permit to be responsible for proper transferal of the food.
These obstacles had prevented past groups from getting a project off of the ground. However, Moyer says he was not deterred. He garnered support from the Student Government Association and worked with Diana and John Blevins of the Salvation Army’s Christiansburg food pantry -- God’s Lunchbox -- to obtain a health permit. He is also negotiating with Kroger and Wal-Mart to organize a donation of food-grade bags that can be used for delivery.
The makings of a program
This past winter, Moyer says he was struck by how cold it was (especially when crossing the Drillfield), and started thinking about what he could do to take care of Blacksburg’s less fortunate, who would feel the effects most.
“I play cello with the New River Valley Symphony Orchestra, and in the middle of rehearsal we always got a break to get a snack before [Au Bon Pain] closed up for the night. That is when I noticed that the bakery items that [they] didn’t sell every day were thrown away,” said Moyer. According to Au Bon Pain corporate quality standards, food items must be sold or used the same day they are produced.
It started in February with leftover bagels, pastries, and pre-packaged cold foods from the campus’ Au Bon Pain franchise. Then, foods from Deet’s Place and DXpress were added, and another outlet, Vet Med Café in the Virginia Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine, is also slated to join the list. Dining services is also exploring possibilities for expanding the program in the fall to include other food items.
When the dining centers closed for spring break in March, administrators coordinated a donation of all the collectible foods remaining at the close of sale that fed 78 people at the Salvation Army center over the course of the weekend.
Donations are picked up by Salvation Army volunteer Craig Woods every Monday through Friday at 9 a.m. and delivered to God’s Lunchbox. Virginia Tech’s dining employees collect food from the participating locations and package it according to Food and Drug Administration safety standards. The Student Government Association advises the program, and Moyer volunteers.