Feeding the hungry

Monday September 30 2013


wil johnsEvery day American farmers throw out enough food to fill up the Rose Bowl. At the same time 56 million Americans struggle to put food on the table.

Those are just two of the facts that Wil Johns ’15, a nursing major from Richmond, Va., learned over the summer doing an internship with the Society of St. Andrew Harvest of Hope.

In the United States, according to the USDA, 27 percent of all the food produced each year is lost at the retail, consumer, and food service levels. That turns out to be about nearly 1.5 tons of food per year for every man, woman, and child in the United States who faces hunger. To put it another way, in the U.S. we throw away about 263 million pounds of food a day ... every single day! 

The nonprofit is based in nearby Big Island, Va., and is focused on salvaging food from fields that would otherwise rot on the ground. Wil did all the logistics for four summer camps that welcomed more than 200 campers from all over the country to the Eastern Shore and Northern Neck of Virginia.

The campers harvested 50,000 pounds of food in one month — 30,000 pounds of potatoes and 20,000 pounds of corn left in fields after harvesting machines went through. The campers loaded trucks and the food was distributed by local food banks to hungry families.

“The best thing was seeing the enjoyment these kids felt when they filled up that truck,” Wil said.

Wil’s work taught him a lot about food and about organization. “I had never harvested potatoes before,” he said. “It was a lot of good insight into the world of nonprofit. I became more organized because I had to be.”

Wil found out about St. Andrews from the social entrepreneur class he took as a Bonner Leader. He was so impressed with its work that he applied for the summer internship. As a Bonner, Wil will head LC’s Hunger and Homelessness Week in November.

In addition to his work in Bonner, Wil is a Westover Honors student and a member of Sigma Nu. He says he is the only nursing major involved in all three organizations, and he chose his major because he enjoys helping people.