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New Leaf Plans Innovative Solution to Feed the Hungry

by on September 22, 2015 11:57 AM

There are about 22,000 people in Centre County who aren’t sure where their next meal will come from, but one State College organization wants to change that.

At Monday’s meeting of the State College Borough Council, members of the New Leaf Initiative briefed council members on their plan to battle food insecurity in Centre County.

New Leaf, a nonprofit organization that encourages entrepreneurship, is in the running for the $100,000 Centre Inspires grant from the Centre Foundation. If the organization lands the grant, New Leaf wants to create Food Centers throughout the county to transform the way relief organizations feed the hungry.

Jesse Pierce of New Leaf said there are four major factors that contribute to food insecurity: a lack of storage space at relief organizations, especially for fresh produce; a high amount of food from farms, groceries stores and restaurants going to waste rather than being eaten; a lack of education among people suffering from food insecurity about how to efficiently use and cook food; and a lack of money that prevents people or relief organizations from purchasing food.

Kevin Sims of New Leaf told council that their Food Centers would address all of these concerns at once, “creating not just an aid culture, but a community culture where everyone can come together in the same place.”

The first step will be to work with Penn State engineering students to transform old 40 foot shipping containers into new cold storage units, which will be used to store fresh fruits, vegetables, and other nutritional produce.

In addition to these new, massive refrigerators, each Food Center will also have a commercial licensed kitchen, enabling relief organizations to cook community dinners and host educational classes about how to prepare fresh, healthy meals.

These food centers would also work with New Leaf’s “food reclamation network,” which connects farmers, gardeners and businesses with relief organizations so food producers can donate excess food to charity instead of letting go to waste. And because the service of the Food Centers would be donation-based, they’d be able to help even the most economically disadvantaged Centre County residents.

Sims said they haven’t nailed down the locations of the four proposed Food Centers yet, but adds that New Leaf wants to spread them throughout the county with a focus on “food deserts” where there are few places to purchase fresh food.

“It’s an incredible disgrace that one of the richest societies in the history of the world has, in any part of it, a place where 15 percent of its people are food insecure,” said council member Peter Morris. “But since that does happen, people like you have to somehow make up for that, and I applaud your efforts.”

Michael Martin Garrett is a reporter and editor for who covers local government, the courts, the arts and writes the Keeping the Faith column. He's a Penn State alumnus, a published poet and the bassist in a local indie rock band.
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