Campus Safety and Community Engagement Office Support Local Communities Through Food Donations

The Department of Campus Safety donated two spiral hams and a trunkful of canned food items to Lazarus House, a ministry based in Lawrence, Mass. that supports people struggling with poverty, homelessness, and food insecurity.

For Yoel Sosa, Campus Safety Dispatcher, getting together as a department to collect and donate food items was rewarding, especially after a pause in in-person volunteering due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“My family has been volunteering with Lazarus House since 2011; once a month, we would go to the shelter in Lawrence to cook and serve a meal, even wash the dishes. But since Covid-19, we’ve been cooking meals at home and drop[ping] it off before dinner time, once a month. So having Campus Safety Dept. get together to collect canned foods and a couple of spiral hams and drop it off at the pantry was very rewarding,” wrote Sosa in an email to The Phillipian.

Sosa looks forward to organizing larger food drives in the future, this time involving other departments on campus that expressed interest in joining the cause, one of which is the Community Engagement Office.

According to Monique Cueto-Potts, Director of Community Engagement, the Community Engagement Office has been in partnership with Lazarus House for several decades, having consistently sent student volunteers and meals.

“We send student volunteers [to Lazarus House] and a meal once a month, though since March 2020 we have just been providing meals once a month and not sending volunteers due to Covid-19 restrictions. The Stearns House residents also volunteer at the annual Hike for Hope, which benefits Lazarus House,” wrote Cueto-Potts.

Cueto-Potts stated that the Community Engagement Office has also been involved in similar charitable causes. The decades-long Bread and Roses program is currently in a similar situation: the office is making meal donations once a month in lieu of in-person volunteers. The Community Engagement Office plans to resume sending volunteers to partners as soon as safety regulations permit.

Other initiatives of the Community Engagement Office to tackle food insecurity include an annual Thanksgiving meal drive that benefits Neighbors in Need, a food pantry based in Lawrence, Mass. Several groups on campus contribute 80-90 meals, which Neighbors in Need then distributes to families throughout the Merrimack Valley. While this program has also been paused due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Cueto-Potts stated that the meal drive will continue as soon as Neighbors in Need is ready to do so.

The Community Engagement Office also organized a five-week online program called Hunger in America, which discussed the root causes of food insecurity and communities’ responses to it in the US. The program was offered to Andover students as well as students from several other independent schools and encouraged students to start addressing food insecurity in various ways in their communities.

Amber Ting ’23 expressed appreciation for the Community Engagement Office’s efforts to consistently support local communities as the Covid-19 pandemic continues.

“I think it’s great the Community Engagement Office is now working with Lazarus House. I know a lot of off-campus programs were put on pause during Fall Term, so it’s nice to know that more student volunteer opportunities exist. I can’t imagine food donations aren’t important given that we’re still experiencing the pandemic,” said Ting.

Maggie Qi ’24 shared a similar sentiment as Ting and believes that there could be more ways for students and faculty to engage with surrounding communities.

“At places like boarding schools at the end of the term, a lot of [students] throw away their furniture at the end of the year. A lot of it ends up in dumpsters, while a lot of it could be donated, so the school could open up some space—like a separate bin or something—where you can donate it,” said Qi.