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Wall High Grad Making A Difference

Nick Canessa helped establish a food redistribution program at Providence College, R.I.

It seemed like a good idea: Collect some of the leftover food from his college’s dining hall — food that would otherwise go to waste — and give it to a local soup kitchen.

But Nick Canessa, a 2010 Wall High School graduate attending college in Rhode Island, discovered something else when he and a friend set out to implement the idea.

It was easy to make a real difference in his community.

“I guess you just get so busy with things — you get caught up and don’t realize how easy it can be to help people, and use the resources you have available,’’ Canessa said in a recent interview from Providence College.

Canessa, 20, is a junior at Providence, majoring in health policy and management. He’s also active in the Student Congress and is on the Student Life Committee. A friend and fellow Providence junior, David O’Connor, last year told Canessa about an interesting organization he had heard of called the Food Recovery Network — a nonprofit organization encouraging collection of surplus food from universities across the country to benefit those in need.

The pair set out to see if they could set up a similar system at Providence College. Beginning with this last semester, Canessa helped set up the Friars Food Rescue, so-named after the college’s mascot.

In a deal worked out with the college’s food service provider, unserved surplus food from the daily meals available to students is collected and preserved in catering pans. Canessa collects the food each week, rents a van on campus and delivers the food to a local shelter.

Easy, Canessa said. Surprisingly so.

“It’s been pretty eye-opening how easy the process has been,’’ he said.

He has made seven deliveries in two months to a local shelter and kitchen in Providence. That about 721 pounds of food, Canessa said.

The McAuley House, which provides about 300 meals a day to those in need, is greatly appreciative, said the Rev. Mary Margaret Earl, associate director of McAuley Ministries, which runs the shelter.

“Having the support like that from Providence College is really helpful,’’ Earl said.

Earl said the food is a welcome addition and helps to take some of the pressure off the kitchen staff when they know the Providence delivery is coming.

“I know the kitchen manager is very happy about it,’’ she said.

Canessa said the experience so far has shown him that he can make a difference — a lesson he said he’ll keep with him wherever he goes.

“It’s good to know it’s going to a good use,’’ he said. “I can’t imagine not doing this anymore.’’

He said he’s actively looking for a core group of people to take over the program next year, because he and O’Connor will be studying abroad.

“We have a good thing going right now,’’ he said. “And we want to make sure it continues.’’

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