By: Zachary Notkin  | 

The Food 4 Thought Club: A Chessed Slam Dunk

If you spend a lot of time at YU events, you might have wondered what happens to all the leftover food, especially after Shabbos meals. Unfortunately, while some food on Wilf goes to the hefker (ownerless) table, most of the leftover Shabbos food — an unexpectedly staggering amount of chicken, rice and vegetables — goes directly into the dumpster, perhaps a symbol of our wasteful culture. However, merely wandering the neighborhoods around the campuses paints a starkly contrasting picture. People, seemingly without a home or support system to turn to live in a pitiful state. According to a 2021 government report, there are nearly 80,000 homeless New Yorkers. Despite Torat Chesed’s prominence as one of our Core Torah values, we neglect this opportunity on our doorstep.

However, a new club, started on the Beren Campus, changes this paradigm. It gives food that would otherwise go in the trash directly to needy people who live near the school. Called the Food 4 Thought Club, I wanted to find out more about what sounds like an incredible movement. 

I started by speaking with Racheli Jian (SCW ‘24), the club founder and president. “I founded the club when I saw how food waste was an increasing problem on campus, now that food-related services had to be COVID conscious,” Jian said. “I knew that many people were upset and I am happy that this club provides somewhat of a solution to this big problem.” 

It works like this: Members volunteer to collect food that school employees would normally throw out. They then package them into meal containers and distribute them on the streets around both campuses. So far, the project has been a great success, and a large number of meals have been distributed every week. 

To find out more about the club, I spoke with one of its volunteers. Rafeal Abecassis (SSSB ‘23), who gave the first ever meal from the Wilf campus, and he told me he enjoyed his volunteering experience very much, saying,“It felt very good to give without expecting anything back in return.” I witnessed some of the giving myself, and saw many expressions of gratitude that would bring warm feelings to anyone's heart. Showing sensitivity, the club chooses not to photograph these moments. 

Going forward, Jian has big plans. She told me that she hopes that she can continue to expand the club's charitable activities by working with the university. As of now, the food is given out by students who act of their own accord, as the school is afraid of potential liability that could arise from giving food to strangers. The club is also looking into the possibility of working with some sort of food bank or homelessness support organization. I personally think that a big part of the club’s success has come from its dedicated, passionate and grassroots membership, and that by working together, it can bring this project to great heights. 

Surely, no matter where you find yourself on YU’s ideological spectrum, you can agree that this is a noble project deserving our support. Hopefully this project can serve to not just unite us as a school, but act as a bridge of peace between the YU community and its many, often overlooked, neighbors. New volunteers are always welcome.

Photo Caption: Meals for homeless being prepared on the Wilf Campus

Photo Credit: Rafeal Abecassis