2 students collect unused food
January 07, 2021

Student startup dedicated to food rescue

PA students create a business to help others and solve food waste problem
by Jill Clerkin

Prompted in part by observing mealtime waste on campus, Arnav Bhakta ’22 and Emily Huang ’21 decided to do something about it.

A nonprofit dedicated to food rescue and food waste awareness, Stem4Free was created during spring break 2020. The unusual name refers to a plant stem, with “4Free” describing how the food is donated.

Connecting with people outside my own school—and even country—to rally others behind our cause, and to really see change happening on a larger scale, has been incredibly inspiring and rewarding.

Emily Huang ’21 Stem4Free vice president and COO

Nicole Jo '21 brings surplus food to a Massachusetts YMCA. Top photo: Emma Fu '21 and brother Steven make a delivery in Michigan.

The organization is managed and run completely by teens with seven PA board members recruiting, training, and overseeing about 175 high school volunteers who act as intermediaries between restaurants and community food banks.

“Because Andover students come from all corners of the world, we were able to have a big impact and an international footprint immediately,” says Bhakta, president and CEO. There are now 31 branches of Stem4Free in the United States, two in India, and one in Hong Kong, Italy, and Canada.

Students identify sources of surplus food and then distribute that food—typically baked goods, chicken, pasta dishes, sandwiches, fruit bowls, and vegetables—to local organizations that assist people in need. Most donations are scheduled, but some, like the 20 coconut pies from a downtown Andover bakery, are spur of the moment.

Emma Fu ’21 manages the Michigan branch, which donates twice a week to a local hospital. “We are always welcomed by huge smiles from the health care workers,” she says. “There’s a sense of pride and satisfaction when your actions help brighten someone’s day.”

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