Food Justice Initiatives in the Office of Community Service and Civic Engagement

This year, Trinity’s Office of Community Service and Civic Engagement has been increasing its focus on food justice in Hartford. Students in Trinity Homelessness Project (THP) and the community service club JELLO have been revamping programs to support food security work in the community. Food recovery with the dining hall, the Backpack Nutrition Program with Hands On Hartford, and weekly volunteering at Place of Grace Food Pantry have seen renewed leadership and energy this year.

Juan Garcia ’25 and Kendall Dorsey ’25 delivering trays of food from Mather Dining Hall

After a pandemic-related pause, leftover food is once again being recovered and redistributed from Mather Dining Hall. Each week since fall 2022, THP students coordinate with Trinity’s dining staff to deliver leftover food to organizations that serve houseless people in Hartford. Passionate about food justice and recovery, Anna Grant-Bolton ‘25, Co-President of THP, got the program up and running again this year.

In its first semester of operation, THP’s food rescue program has thus far saved and delivered 112 trays of food split between two local shelters – ImmaCare and South Park Inn. Grant-Bolton ‘25 says part of the reason she loves being a part of food rescue is that it has an impact on both sustainability and community care: “It takes a lot of energy and resources to produce food, so when it goes to waste, that’s a problem environmentally. Additionally, there are so many people who, because of systems of food injustice, don’t have access to food consistently.”

Students in Trinity Homelessness Project pack backpacks to deliver to Hands On Hartford

THP also took leadership of the Backpack Nutrition Program this year. Trinity students have been working with the Backpack Nutrition Program since 2013. Run by Hands On Hartford, a local non-profit that focuses on supporting community members in food, housing, and health, the Backpack Nutrition Program currently serves 225 Hartford school children who might struggle to find enough to eat on weekends. THP is responsible for shopping for, packing, and delivering 25 of those backpacks each week. One bag provides four meals, as well as snacks and drinks. Hands On Hartford distributes these bags to students across Harford schools each Thursday and Friday.

As Co-President of THP, Lily McGuirk ‘24 oversees the Backpack Nutrition program and works with volunteers each week to shop for groceries, pack bags, and deliver them to Hands on Hartford. When asked about running the program, Lily said her favorite part was dropping off the bags: “It’s easy to get caught up in the repetitiveness of packing the bags. But when you go drop them off, you remember that you’re part of a huge project that’s supporting the community.”

In addition to THP’s food justice-related work, students with JELLO have been volunteering weekly with the Place of Grace Food Pantry, continuing a partnership that has been active for at least 15 years. Just five minutes from campus, the food pantry operates every Thursday morning. Students start off their Thursdays by passing out food and chatting with community members.  Student volunteers have a variety of jobs, including sorting and bagging food as well as handing out food to the community members. Chloe Tobin ‘25, President of JELLO, helps manage the front desk where community members check-in.

When asked about her experience volunteering with Place of Grace, Tobin ‘25 spoke about how welcoming the people are. Tobin, who started volunteering with Place of Grace less than a year ago, recently celebrated a birthday. When she walked into the food pantry that week, the whole team sang “Happy Birthday” to her. “I think it’s special because it’s a really friendly environment,” says Tobin.

Learn more about the Office of Community Service and Civic Engagement’s food justice initiatives in the video below. Students can reach out to Joe Barber (jbarber@trincoll.edu) to get involved.

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