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Amanda Kleinmann’s Food Bank Project Measured in Pounds Collected and Lessons Learned


West Windsor, N.J. – When Mercer County Community College (MCCC) sophomore Amanda Kleinmann, of Hamilton, was looking for a community service project last summer, it started simply enough.  She spent some time at the Mercer Street Friends (MSF) Food Bank in Trenton, helping to organize inventory and pack food as she learned about the organization’s important work to feed the hungry and serve the homeless.

Her volunteer work took on a broader mission when she and her brother, a junior at Hamilton West High School, decided to join the statewide “Students Change Hunger” food drive, organized locally through MSF.

Kleinmann, an NJSTARS scholar at Mercer, approached the NJSTARS Club and the MCCC Student Activities office for their support at the start of the fall semester.  And then she was off and running.  She placed 60 donation boxes in classrooms and hallways at both campuses – and harnessed the resources and support of the entire MCCC community. 

Throughout the fall, Kleinmann made her collection rounds every day, delivering donations to the MSF’s Food Bank at the end of the week.  The donations were weighed on a large scale and a log was kept of the growing total.

“Every other week, it was another 100 lbs.,” she reports, adding that by the end of the three-month challenge in November, she had collected almost 800 lbs. of non-perishable foods items.

She notes that faculty members added their support, especially Richard Porter (Mathematics), who posted a request on his website, and Charlene Sharkey (Mathematics), who teaches classes at the Trenton campus and brought back an additional 150 lbs. of donations from Trenton staff and students.

Through her food drive project at MCCC, Amanda Kleinmann added close to 800 lbs. of food to the Mercer Street Friends Food Bank.
Kleinmann was recently presented with the Innovator Award by Brian Peterson, the Food Bank’s community resource liaison. Kleinmann harnessed the resources and good will of classmates, faculty and staff to lead a successful drive.

Kleinmann recently accepted a certificate in the "Heavyweight Division" on behalf of the college at a ceremony hosted by the MSF Food Bank.  According to Brian Peterson, the Food Bank’s community resource liaison, MCCC received special congratulations for two milestones – registering early and adding 500 pounds to the Food Bank's inventory before Halloween.  Kleinmann received the Innovator Award for her drive and creativity in getting the word out and engaging such a large portion of the student body.

Peterson notes that he witnessed Amanda meeting every challenge to ensure her project’s success.  “The way she drew in fellow students and the faculty was amazing.  It was so good to see her excel,” he said, adding that he is personally pleased that Mercer embraced the project so enthusiastically. “Mercer is the county’s college.  It seems like the success of the food drive there is consistent with its mission to help serve the surrounding community.  I’m glad we have such a great partnership.”

Peterson reports that 13 schools throughout the county participated – MCCC was the only college – and netted a total of 16,684 lbs. of food.  He notes that with cuts in food stamps and fewer donations than usual, the food donations provided critical sustenance to people in need.  “Without that, I don’t know what we would have done. I love that students took action and made it happen.”

Kleinmann says that the two courses she took at Mercer early last summer informed her decision to get involved. In a Public Speaking course with faculty member Alvyn Haywood, she researched “food insecurity” and presented a five-minute persuasive speech that heightened her awareness and that of her classmates about hunger in America. 

“I became more aware of the problem and was able to make others more aware,” she says, noting that her first donations came from other students in the class. 

In her second class, Introduction to Sociology, taught by Michael Prohaska, she broadened her world view and the more she learned about the issues that lead to food insecurity, the more she wanted to do something about it in her own backyard.

While her younger brother at Hamilton West outdid her with 3,000 lbs. collected, Kleinmann says that winning the competition was never really the point.  “It was about doing something to help and getting others to pitch in too.”  

Kleinmann believes the project helped her grow as a person.  “I have more confidence and more leadership skills,” she observes.

The project also served to solidify Kleinmann’s academic direction.  “I am definitely interested in studying sociology.  I plan to transfer locally after graduation from MCCC.  My older sisters chose to attend college out of state, but I like commuting and being connected to the community where I grew up.”

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