Rising junior and communication studies major Nadia Ouazzi brought a whole new meaning to the premium meal plan when she encouraged community outreach to help local children take on the day with a full stomach. Working with Sodexo, the company that provides food to on-campus dining halls, Ouazzi introduced the Universities Feed Program at Temple to donate leftover food to the Boys and Girls Clubs of Philadelphia.
“The thought of not having access to food when you’re hungry is so foreign to me,” Ouazzi said. “I want to take away that worry from those kids.”
Ouazzi took a cue from her older sister, Louiza, who created U-Feed at Rowan University.
“My sister used to work in catering and she would see all the food being wasted,” Ouazzi said. “She decided to do something about it.”
Rowan is another partner of Sodexo that now donates unused food to the Boys and Girls Clubs of South Jersey.
“It had never been done before so at first everyone seemed really opposed to it,” Ouazzi said. “It’s donating food that can go bad instead of canned food. That creates the possibility for lawsuits.”
Ouazzi, however, encountered fewer problems when pitching the idea to Temple.
“My sister had already cut through all the red tape,” Ouazzi said. “For me, it was just about expanding her idea. I held a meeting with Todd Baker, the general manager of Sodexo, just to make sure he was on board. Then I went to Nate Quinn to get the ball rolling.”
Quinn, the Unit Marketing Coordinator at Sodexo, is in charge of all marketing of dining services on campus. He coordinated with all employees to work out the details of the donation process.
“Baker and I were approached by Nadia to start donating the leftovers,” Quinn said. “I became the point person on Sodexo’s end to execute the program.”
Ouazzi and Quinn first met with the Diamond Club in March before moving on to the Student Center to store all the leftovers from Charleston Market.
“All that food that isn’t eaten can’t be put out for the next day,” Ouazzi said. “It’s not that it’s gone bad; we just can’t eat the same meal twice if we’re paying for it so it was all thrown away.”
Ouazzi modeled a way in which the food could be safely transported and stored. The Boys and Girls Club donated aluminum tins so there was no added cost to Sodexo.
“Now what happens is they cook it, serve it to students and whatever is left and still good is wrapped up and labeled on top,” Ouazzi said. “All the ingredients are listed in case of allergies and they mark the temperature it should be stored and heated at. It stays in the fridge overnight and the club director picks up the food the next morning.”
Since Temple started participating in U-Feed, about 700 pounds of food have been donated from the combined Diamond Club and Student Center.
“We were talking with the club directors who are in direct communication with the parents,” Ouazzi said. “They say that the kids go home full so they don’t have to worry about cooking dinner anymore. For families in North Philadelphia, that’s a concern. They don’t have time to cook or don’t have money to pay for food.”
Ouazzi has seen the positive effects of the program firsthand at the Fairmount Boys and Girls Club where she plans to volunteer next year as a mentor.
Sodexo has been making significant changes to stop hunger and help feed the surrounding underprivileged neighborhoods in the city.
“This program has certainly made us more aware of the amount of food that is wasted and we have been able to attempt to reduce that amount,” Quinn said. “Temple Dining Services regularly donates food and money to Philabundance several times a year.”
Sodexo recently sold a “Stop Hunger” cookie and donated 100% of the revenue to Philabundance, totaling $2,822. They also make it their mission to inspire local participation by requiring that each account hires over 90% of its employees from the surrounding community.
Despite best efforts on Sodexo’s behalf, Quinn believes the real difference is made by students like Ouazzi.
“Student involvement and passion drive a lot of our efforts,” Quinn said. “We first have to know that a cause is important to students because they are our first concern.”
Ouazzi admits that it was easier than expected to implement change.
“It just came down to meeting with people and making phone calls,” she said. “We’re expanding next year to Morgan Hall and the Louis J. Esposito Dining Center and I want to make this a national program. If you have the time, you can make big changes.”