Join Projects to Feed Durham’s Hungry

‘Potato Drop’ on Aug. 29 and a semester-long food donation start soon

Students who volunteer as part of Duke's
Students who volunteer as part of Duke's "Food Recovery Network" have spent time each semester collecting unused or unwanted food from Duke eateries to donate to local charities and non-profits. It's just one effort to feed Durham's hungry that will start up this week. Photo courtesy of Greg Poore.

Duke community members are invited to come together this weekend to help local food relief agencies feed those in need. 

Six Duke departments, including the Duke-Durham Neighborhood Partnerships and Religious Life at Duke, will host a “potato drop” from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 29 at Smith Warehouse. Volunteers will help prepare 10-pound bags of potatoes to be donated to local charities like the Durham Rescue Mission, Urban Ministries of Durham and the Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina.

The Society of St. Andrew, a national organization that focuses on feeding the hungry, will drop off 40,000 pounds of gleaned potatoes – normal vegetables perfect to eat but not necessarily aesthetically pleasing enough for a grocery store – that will be separated and bagged by volunteers. 

“This is an opportunity to get outside ourselves and think about engaging with our community,” said Christy Lohr Sapp, associate dean for religious life at Duke Chapel and an organizer of the event. “It’s a project that hits on many interest points from across campus, from sustainability to civic engagement to hunger relief.”

Faculty, staff and students can volunteer for hour-long shifts starting at 10 a.m. and can sign up using this online form.

Fittingly, this week’s effort comes at the beginning of a semester-long project to help get unused or unwanted food into the mouths of those who need it. 

One of the organizers for the potato drop, Duke senior Greg Poore, has also helped to coordinate a partnership between Duke Dining and Urban Ministries of Durham, collecting extra food from six on-campus locations to donate to the charity, which offers food, clothing and other services to Durham’s homeless and disadvantaged population.

With financial help from Sustainable Duke’s Green Grant Fund and Duke Student Government to pay for supplies and transportation, Poore and about 15 student volunteers gathered about 1,600 pounds of food last year from the Marketplace, Penn Pavilion, Freeman Center and other locations at Duke. Poore, who has led the donation effort each semester since fall 2013, said last spring’s 1,600 pounds was about five times what he averaged in previous semesters.

“Things can start small, but the impact to a community is larger than us,” Poore said. “We were able to feed over 1,300 people last semester and it’s exciting to see other people get involved who want to help the community.”

This fall, Poore and other members of Duke’s newly-named Food Recovery Network will pick up food from Duke locations three times a week and drop them off at non-profits like Urban Ministries.

“Duke Dining's food donation service provides the opportunity to support and create community, engage and educate students and aligns with our sustainability food diversion goals,” said Robert Coffey, director of Duke Dining Services. “We value our partnerships with students and local shelters that make this a successful program, providing a valuable service to the Durham community.”