Cafeteria Leftovers Provide Hot Meals for Local Children

December 12, 2017 at 9:35 am

From left Christopher Curtis and Ashley Matheson prepare food items to be delivered to the Bethlehem Center/ Les Duggins/ USC Upstate

The University of South Carolina Upstate’s student-led IMPACT service organization is putting surplus cafeteria meals to good use: feeding underprivileged children at Spartanburg’s Bethlehem Center.

Members of IMPACT – which stands for Involvement with Members to be Positive Advocates for the Community through Teamwork — partnered with the USC Upstate dining program, which is operated by Sodexo, to launch the effort in October through a national student-driven organization, the Food Recovery Network. In the two months since they started, student volunteers have taken around 570 pounds of food to the Bethlehem Center, a local outreach program dedicated to helping families through community support.

Christopher Curtis, a USC Upstate senior and member of the IMPACT program, has helped deliver the food to the Bethlehem Center, and said the program has special meaning to him.

I’ve always had the desire to help others – I’ve been that way since I was a kid growing up,” Curtis said. “A lot of people don’t know this, but I’m adopted, along with my brothers and sisters – they kept us all together. The wonderful parents who adopted us also ran a children’s home, so we very much, from personal experience, know what it’s like to be in need of something and to have the community come together and support us.”

Curtis and other student volunteers take the food to the center twice a week, on Tuesdays and Fridays. Curtis said he has been one of the Tuesday volunteers.

Curtis, right, and other student volunteers take the food to the center twice a week, on Tuesdays and Fridays. /Les Duggins/USC Upstate

“We would go to the [Olin B. Sansbury Campus Life Center] and any food that was left over from that lunch service – so it’s all fresh food, it wasn’t anything old – we would weigh it, and record it, and transport it over to the Bethlehem Center. … They’re in need of that food to help feed all those children, and they’ve got a lot of children there.”

According to Sodexo, before the program began, children typically received one hot meal per week at The Bethlehem Center; since the program, they now receive hot meals from the recovered food almost every night of the week.

The program gives the IMPACT members the opportunity to gain perspective into the needs in the Spartanburg community, according to Allison Ryan, student life graduate assistant.

“I think it’s a cool opportunity for them to actually get to know the community beyond just volunteering there once,” she said. “They get to have an established relationship with the agency and get to see the kids once or twice a week. I’m very big on having in-depth relationships with community agencies; I think it’s a great way to build that steady partnership.”

Ryan said this isn’t the first time this type of program has been instituted at USC Upstate. She said that previously it was spearheaded by Krystal Borsch, then a USC Upstate student and president of IMPACT. After Borsch graduated in 2013, the program was discontinued; however, Borsch has since returned to the University and now works as the unit marketing coordinator for dining services.

“The three key people who were involved with the program all left, and no one I guess really knew how to continue the program,” Borsch said of the earlier effort. “When I came back, I went back to Student Life and asked who could take this on and sustain it.”

That’s when Borsch and Ryan began working together to re-establish the charitable activity and give it a sustainable home within the Office of Student Life.

“Since we produce such large amounts of food, watching any of it be wasted is frustrating when I know it could be used for someone else,” Borsch said. “There’s a need in Spartanburg, and not just at the soup kitchens. And we have the resources, so I just wanted to connect the need with the resources we have here.”