Food donation is constant effort on Morningside Campus
On the cusp of another holiday season, there's that annual uptick of concern about the less fortunate - particularly those who need a decent meal.
On Columbia's Morningside campus, however, food for the hungry is year-round concern, and one that's focused largely on the neighborhood.
Both Dining Services Columbia Catering are long-time donors of food and unneeded kitchen equipment as well as "loaner" equipment. City Harvest and Broadway Community, two local agencies, are their principal beneficiaries.
Executive Chef John Santiago oversees both Columbia Catering and the Faculty House kitchen. He's responsible for catered functions that in peak seasons such as Commencement can range from 10 to 50 per day. Though Santiago says he tries hard not to cook more food than needed, any unserved food - most often sandwiches, barbeque and salads -- goes across Broadway at 114th Street to Broadway Community, a nonprofit soup kitchen housed at Broadway Presbyterian Church.
"I don't believe in throwing food away," Santiago says.
Over at Broadway Community, Chef Michael Ennes describes Santiago as "a big contributor there, most often but not always in May/June and September, when more big parties have large leftovers that our Soup Kitchen is often delighted to consume."
Victoria Dunn, Director of Dining, notes that donations also include equipment.
Two years ago, for example, the stark white china at John Jay Dining Hall was changed out for vivid colored ware. Broadway Community received the old china.
And beyond outright donations, there's sharing across Broadway. Ennes describes Santiago as "always there to help when I need to borrow a covered rack or some storage space."
Nearly every Friday, John Jay Dining Hall fills about 20 hotel-size pans that are picked up by City Harvest, a nonprofit organization that distributes food to agencies in New York City's five boroughs.
Dunn says it's food such as fish, chops, chicken, rice and vegetables whose expiration dates will arrive before John Jay's kitchen can use it, and items like day-old bread.
Bottom line, says Chef Mike, is that "an essential part of our model is about developing relationships and a support system in our community, and Columbia University and Barnard College are a big part of that."