Josh Hechtman was our CCS Foundation Intern this summer. Thanks to the Bank of America Student Leader program, Josh spent eight weeks with us designing and developing initiatives to solve student hunger at CCS.
Josh has a big smile and big ideas. "I’m an advocate for ending food waste and hunger." Everything about these issues interests him: research behind food waste and agriculture technology, the entrepreneur opportunities to end hunger and food waste at the consumer level, and the policies that could resolve the issues on a national level.
It all started when Josh was a kid and he’d cook with his mom. He’d always been passionate about food, and he loved to watch cooking shows on TV, but he really loved the community and celebration of food. “Food brings people together,” Josh explained. It has ties to our culture, our family and friends, and a meal together can make even the smallest occasion a time to remember.
When he was younger, he said he wasn’t aware of food waste or of how many people right in his own community go hungry. "I didn’t even think food waste was happening, then. I wasn’t aware of the environmental and social impact of food waste.” But as he reached high school, he started to notice how much food was getting thrown out around him. And he began to see that students right in his school were going hungry.
The things you’ll learn quickly about Josh: he’s a fast learner and a problem-solver at heart. So as soon as he noticed these issues around him, he went to work. He researched food waste online and devoured data. He talked to his aunt, who works in the restaurant industry in California. He spoke to his counselor at school about his ideas to solve these problems. And he found a solution.
"Community college students need ready access to food so they can focus on school, work, and their families."
ReProduce 81 is a program at Lewis and Clark High School that Josh started. Students can donate food from home or from their lunches for other students to eat. Think of it like this: you have your set lunch at school, but you don’t want to eat your apple. Instead of throwing it away, you can leave it at a donation site for another student to take later. It’s a two-for-one solution: ReProduce 81 combats food waste and student hunger.
"I stay passionate about these kinds of projects because of the profound impact we have on these students. Food is a basic need."
So when Josh got to CCS, he knew he wanted to keep helping students, especially since community college students are one of the demographics that face high rates of hunger.“Community College students need ready access to food so they can focus on school, work, and their families.”
Josh learned quickly about CCS and the Foundation’s work to support students facing hunger. Student pantries are available on both campuses, and the Foundation raised money on Giving Tuesday last year to support pantries for student populations, such as those at CCS’s various Centers, that can’t access the pantries. With his passion for the topic, his experience in resolving the issue, and a team behind him, he set to work developing initiatives across CCS’s 12,000 square-mile district to combat student hunger.
“Hunger is an issue that hasn’t been solved because it feels constant. It creates concerns for the climate, for our community’s health, and for policies that create access to healthy food. But everyone can do their part – learn about use by and sell by dates, research composting, donate food from their own pantries – to create a solution.” Even though Josh’s internship with the Foundation ended this summer, he’s going to keep working towards resolving food waste and hunger. He’s continuing ReProduce 81 this year, his last year at Lewis and Clark High School, and he’s going to focus on these issues in college. He said he’s especially interested in policy development. And when it comes to building those policies for the betterment of our local and national communities, Josh shared his main value for the process: “Everyone has a seat at the table.”
In his eight weeks with the Foundation, Josh:
- Launched a food recovery program at SFCC in September. Leftover cafeteria food gets frozen and packaged. It’s heat-sealed with plastic wrap, and then the Associated Student Government takes the individual meals to the campus food pantry to be distributed. It’s an extra free meal for students and it reduces waste!
- Initiated plans to create the same food recovery program at Spokane Community College
- Created pop up pantries like those for ReProduce 81 around the SFCC campus where students can donate food for their classmates
- Designed an online ordering system for students to easily schedule a time to pick up their pre-ordered food at the SFCC campus pantry
- Constructed plans for the creation of a one-stop pantry at the Adult Education Center. Previously, nonperishables were kept around the Center. Now, students will have one place to go get healthy food options to keep them focused on school!