Duke Helps to Feed Those in Need

Student hatches plan to donate unused food to Urban Ministries of Durham

Greg Poore, left, a Duke sophomore, hands a box of food over to Ken Mauney, facilities manager with Urban Ministries. Poore and Duke Dining partnered with the local non-profit to donate unused food. Photo courtesy of Duke Dining.
Greg Poore, left, a Duke sophomore, hands a box of food over to Ken Mauney, facilities manager with Urban Ministries. Poore and Duke Dining partnered with the local non-profit to donate unused food. Photo courtesy of Duke Dining.

On any given day, Urban Ministries of Durham may provide about 600 meals between breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Thanks to a partnership between Duke Dining and Urban Ministries of Durham, some of those meals are easier to plan, prepare and provide to people in need. Last week, Duke handed over between 50 to 75 pounds of food to the local shelter that will use it to feed local residents.

The food was the latest in a series of donations and brainchild of Gregory Poore, a sophomore at Duke.

"The driving aspect is really just the idea that we're able to take something that normally wouldn't feed anyone and we're able to help people," Poore said. "I want to be able to help those in need and I see it as an easy way to do it."

Poore approached Duke Dining administrators last year about the potential to donate unused food from Duke's eateries. He was inspired by an annual Thanksgiving tradition in his hometown of West Palm Beach, Fla. Every November the Big Heart Brigade organization holds a food drive that helps to feed about 100,000 people in need.

"I felt like someone should at least ask whether we could do something like that," Poore said.

Poore met with Robert Coffey, director of Duke Dining Services, and hatched a plan to make it happen. Because of the way meals are scheduled and how food is used and stored at Duke, the easiest way to donate items is to wait until the end of academic semesters or before time off like Thanksgiving or spring break. That way, fresh produce or frozen items will be ideal to donate for meals.

So far, Duke has made four donations to Urban Ministries, each time giving dozens of pounds of food ranging from fresh vegetables to frozen meat and lasagna.

"We saw it as another example of how we could help Duke become involved in Durham and make good things happen," Coffey said.

At Urban Ministries, every donation can add up, especially sizeable ones like Duke's contributions, said Bryan Gilmer, director of marketing and development for the non-profit. Gilmer said that a donation of snack food and vegetables right before Thanksgiving allowed Urban Ministries to serve breakfast and pack bag lunches at a cost of just 37 cents per meal.

"Not only did it reduce our cost to hand out meals, but it made them healthier," Gilmer said. "We receive a lot of contributed food, but Duke Dining has become one of our bigger sources."

Moving forward, Poore and Coffey said they hope to increase the frequency of donations, including the variety of food. When Poore returns from winter break, he plans to utilize online spreadsheets and facilitate more communication between Duke Dining and Urban Ministries.

"Duke invests a lot of money into making food for us, so this is a great way to get a full investment in it - making sure someone eats the food rather than composting," Poore said.