Culinary Institute of America Extends Food Bank Donation Program

A program at The Culinary Institute of America to feed the hungry of the Hudson Valley has proven so successful among the college's faculty and students that it has expanded from once-a-week delivery to three days each week.

With 42 teaching kitchens and bakeshops on the CIA's Hyde Park campus, there is often more food produced than can be eaten by students. In the past, food that wasn't served was composted and sent to an organic farm. A few years ago, spearheaded by Professor Robert Perillo, the college began working on a way to put that food to even better use, so he contacted the Food Bank of the Hudson Valley.

Instituting a plan to make sure food safety would not be compromised and that resources of the not-for-profit college wouldn't be strained, Perillo and his colleagues on the faculty started small, with food that could be frozen—mostly soups from the Culinary Fundamentals course.

In 2017, Food Bank of the Hudson Valley volunteers picked up almost three tons of food from the CIA, enough for 4,870 meals. As more faculty members began to contribute, finding space in the storeroom was becoming an issue. So, as of March 2018, Food Bank employees now stop by campus three times a week. An added benefit of the more frequent pickups is that freezing is no longer necessary, meaning a greater variety of food can be donated.

"We are truly grateful for the ongoing support of the CIA, and we look forward to having even more of their delicious food to share," says Paul Stermer, director of the Food Bank of the Hudson Valley. "Every day, the Food Bank is helping fight hunger for more than 100,000 food-insecure people throughout the Hudson Valley, and we couldn't do this work without our many partners, including the CIA."

Perillo says he had three reasons for wanting to create the program at the college: reducing food waste, helping the community, and educating students about the first two points. Through the campus Student Government Organization, a survey found 95% student support for the effort.

"Many students who were unaware of food insecurity in their own community are now being made aware," Chef Perillo says. "I want students to be more conscious about what they're throwing away before putting it in compost or the trash."

He adds that students are naturally drawn to social and environmental causes, and expects some may pursue careers in non-governmental organizations dealing with hunger issues. "The more people become aware, the more they look at their own opportunities," says Perillo.

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