Center for Community Engagement

‘Cac Gives Back to the Amherst Survival Center

Chris Tamasi '15 at the Amherst Survival Center 440x275.jpg
November 2013Chris Tamasi '15 at the Amherst Survival Center. Story by Lindsay Ewing ’15, CCE Athletic Liaison

During a Student Athletic Advisory Committee Meeting discussion the last winter, students voiced concern that excess food is often left over after tailgates for athletic competitions. Student-athlete Chris Tamasi ’15 left the conversation concerned and intrigued. He had an idea. The junior football player began to envision a system where this food could be collected and distributed around the community. “It seemed so simple,” says Tamasi. “We have extra food, and there are people in town who need extra food.” In July, Tamasi wrote up a proposal, spoke with Amherst Survival Center’s Pantry Coordinator Shelly Beck, contacted Amherst athletic director Suzanne Coffey, and reached out to fall coaches and captains.

Today, only months later, a weekly food rescue program involving Amherst Athletics and the Amherst Survival Center (ASC) food pantry is up and running. Appropriately named the ‘Cac Gives Back’ for the shortened acronym of the New England Small College Athletic Conference that Amherst is a part of, Tamasi and a few other students transport extra granola bars, fruit, sandwiches, and drinks over to the ASC’s pantry each Monday.

The Amherst Survival Center serves over four thousand people each year, and relies on over 200 volunteers. The Center’s services, all of which are free, include a food pantry, soup kitchen, drop-in health clinic, free store and movie nights. Much of the food pantry’s “hardware”—peanut butter, soup, canned goods comes from the local food bank. Amherst College, however, contributes bananas and fresh fruit, as well as individually packed snacks which are wonderful for families with children. Shelly Beck is quick to speak to the value of the student-athletes’ support. “They bring so much energy,” she says, “and the perishables are great.”

The project began in August with Tamasi simply bringing extra football food—approximately 30 pounds—back to his dorm after games and then driving it over himself. As the season progressed, however, women’s soccer, women’s field hockey, men’s soccer, and women’s cross country also chipped in. Large grey bins are now set up in the foyer of alumni gym and in the new field house. At the peak of competition, Amherst Athletics brought over 136 pounds of food and drink.

 “Out of the 17,000 pounds of food we give out in a month, 100 a week from Amherst might not seem like much, but the variety is excellent,” Beck explains. “PowerAde, granola bars…they are nutrient-dense foods that we don’t normally get.”

The program doesn’t just benefit Survival Center patrons. Senior football player Kevin Callahan speaks to his positive experiences bringing over donations. “Their pure excitement and happiness cements my belief that Amherst student-athletes can make a difference,” he says fondly.

Forever a dreamer, Tamasi is excited to expand even further as the winter seasons begin. “I had a lot of time to sit on this this summer…and as [people] know I have a lot of energy,” he jokes. “I even thought about trying to get refrigerators to preserve the sandwiches Val packs for lunch…Suzanne Coffey was quick to make me really think about the feasibility of that idea...” Refrigerators aside, Tamasi hopes that the future will bring the incorporation of all Amherst teams and the construction of a schedule off-season athletes transport good for in-season athletes.

Once the program is running fluidly at Amherst, Tamasi hopes to show other NESCAC teams the model. “We send two representatives to bi-semester NESCAC-wide Student Athletic Advisory Committee meetings, and this would be an easy forum in which to pitch the idea.” He hopes to connect with CCE type organizations at the other colleges and set up partnerships first between the other NESCAC schools and local food banks, and then between all the colleges themselves. For example, if Amherst Field Hockey is the away team playing at Hamilton, Hamilton will collect the leftover items from Amherst and donate the excess food from both teams to a local food bank. Conversely, when Hamilton visits Amherst, they would return the charitable act.

 “The NESCAC is 12 teams, all similar schools with similar goals and I think everyone would hop on board; it is so easy to make it happen in a small tight knit community, says Tamasi. He feels that there is immense value in supporting other colleges and communities outside of our own. “It is just so easy...it seems so simple and takes so little effort on our part and then causes so much benefit for others.”

For more information, or to get your team involved with ‘Cac Gives Back, contact Chris Tamasi ’15 at ctamasi15@amherst.edu.

Lindsay Ewing ‘15 is one of four Athletics Liaisons for the Center for Community Engagement. Athletics Liaisons connect student-athletes and coaches to the resources of the Center for Community Engagement and work to create a sustainable culture of service within the Athletics Department. 

If your team is looking for community engagement projects, contact Kate Beemer ‘15 at kbeemer15@amherst.edu, Caroline Broder ’15 at cbroder15@amherst.edu, or Nell Patterson ’15 at hpatterson15@amherst.edu.
 
If your team just completed a community engagement event, contact Lindsay Ewing ‘15 at lewing15@amherst.edu so that the campus becomes more aware of what your team is doing to get involved.