While thousands of people in self-quarantine and many businesses allowing employees to work from home, Student Impact Executive Director Danyele Easterhaus and her team of volunteers are trying to make a difference to help those in need.
Student Impact oversees Westfield Food Rescue, the local version of a nationwide initiative to unwanted food from places like school cafeterias and distribute it to food-insecure residents. Since schools have shuttered until at least May 1, Westfield Food Rescue is feeding 70 local families, including the children who normally receive breakfast and lunch at school.
The organization normally serves 23 families.
The increased number means Easterhaus and her team work around the clock to find and distribute food for the families. She is notified of food-insecure families by the Westfield Washington Township Trustee, the Westfield Youth Assistance Program and the Westfield Wellbeing Coalition. She then works with restaurants and other organizations to provide food, which is sorted into totes and then delivered to families.
The totes contain three meals a day for seven days for a family of four.
“We have made a plan with several restaurants for them to make food and (for) us to pick it up and to package that,” Easterhaus said. “(The food) is on almost like a TV tray, a meal for a family of four, so we are doing that so families can warm the tray in the oven and eat it.”
Student Impact purchases food from its partners and receives donations from restaurants. It also accepts donations of shelf-stable items.
“We asked (restaurants) if they have any perishable items at the end of the week so we can package those Thursday nights to go out to families on Friday,” Easterhaus said.
The process is similar to a normal week with Westfield Food Rescue, but typically donations don’t come from restaurants as they prepare for busy weekends. However, during the pandemic many restaurants have more extra food because they can only provide carryout service.
Easterhaus said Westfield Washington Schools donates food twice a week, which are only given to students and not the adults in their family.
“We are trying to do the big family dinner and food for other people in the family for their lunches,” Easterhaus said.
Typically, volunteer drivers for Westfield Food Rescue pick up the donations on Friday mornings and distribute the items a few hours later. Now, Easterhaus said the group is receiving donations every 15 to 20 minutes.
“It is a very well-oiled machine,” Easterhaus said of the donation, sorting and delivering process. “I’m an engineer, so I set it up like a manufacturing floor. It is a constant moving process.
“One person is responsible for one thing and we had enough people, so we then lined the driveway with totes and the addresses are on the totes.”
Gloved volunteers sort and package the food. Drivers then drop the totes on doorsteps, ring the doorbell and leave to avoid face-to-face contact.
“So many are affected by not being able to work while their children are not in school, so there’s a larger number of families being served or affected,” Easterhaus said. “We want to take the burden of food off them so they can put it toward rent and gas.”
To request assistance or to view the list of items most needed for donations, visit therockwestfield.org.
Restaurants donating to Food Rescue
- Greek’s Pizzeria
- Nameless Catering Co.
- Titus Bakery
- Texas Roadhouse
- Prime 47
- Field Brewing
- WKRP Indy