Harvard President Drew G. Faust announced on Friday a new public service initiative to support The Greater Boston Food Bank—the largest hunger-relief organization in New England and one of the largest in the country.
According to Amy Cooper-Ayles, director of volunteers at GBFB, groups of 20 volunteers at a time—consisting of students, faculty, and staff—will fill shifts at the Food Bank roughly once a week beginning in January and continuing until the end of the academic year. Two shifts in November will also be filled by members of the Office of the President and the Provost and the Office of Government, Community and Public Affairs.
The Food Bank does not serve meals, but rather distributes more than 30 million pounds of food and grocery products each year to soup kitchens, homeless shelters, and other community organizations. Cooper-Ayles said that volunteers help sort through the food for damaged, expired, or seasonal products.
She added that Harvard’s commitment is unique, and that in her three years at the Food Bank, no other university has offered a similar long-term pledge of service. Harvard’s commitment, she said, will help ensure that there are enough hands to sort through food after the holiday season, when the number of volunteers typically drops off but the amount of product to be sorted is greatest.
Christine M. Heenan, Harvard’s vice president for government, community, and public affairs, said that volunteer groups from the University’s schools will be solicited by liaisons working for the President’s public service committee, as well as by contacts at the Phillips Brooks House Association and the Graduate Student Council. She said the cost of the commitment was “minimal”—roughly $7,000 for this academic year—and will stem from transportation to the Food Bank and lunches for volunteers.
Harvard’s commitment to the Food Bank comes just before the University launches its Public Service Week, which begins today and recognizes and promotes public service activities and careers. According to the University’s press release, roughly 7,000 Harvard students contributed more than 900,000 hours of service in and around Boston in 2005-2006.
“We’re thinking in terms of our greater power as a community rather than as individual schools or units,” Heenan said. “[This commitment] is something that might be much harder for one school or unit to do for the entire academic year, but together, it is a commitment we can sustain for the entire year.”
—Staff writer Peter F. Zhu can be reached at email@example.com.