Helen verDuin Palit
Founder of City Harvest, America Harvest, Angel Harvest, Aloha Harvest
Bachelor of Science/Sociology, 1978
There are angels in America, at least if you count Helen verDuin Palit, who pioneered the concept of harvesting good food from all components of the food industry to reduce the waste of good food while delivering this food directly to the local social service agencies feeding the hungry men, women and children for free.
Creating her model in New Haven, Conn. in 1981, she founded City Harvest in New York City, Angel Harvest in Los Angeles, and Aloha Harvest in Honolulu while helping others establish their local harvest program with America Harvest. Helen conceived of the concept when she was enjoying a potato skin appetizer with her margarita after an intense day at the soup kitchen. She wondered what happened to the insides of potatoes and asked the chef. He was relieved finally to have a good source to donate these cooked potatoes and other foods right across the street. The donations of good food increase each day as more people join to share in their community.
Currently, there are 797 harvest programs in the United States and around the world using Helen's innovative model that now provide enough food for 700,000 meals a day to hungry men, women and children across the country and around the world by "harvesting" from restaurants, caterers, corporations, schools, universities, churches, synagogues, jails and prisons, farmers, photographers and award shows, including the Oscars and Grammys; all good food that would otherwise be thrown away while people are in need literally a few blocks away. It is what Helen humbly calls her "smart, simple idea."
Former President George H. W. Bush named her the fourth of his "Thousand Points of Light" National Community Service Campaign. Helen credits Texas Tech and its people for inspiring her to think differently. "It wasn't just the courses", she says, "but also the larger ambiance throughout Lubbock that created an atmosphere encouraging me to think outside of the box while venturing down new paths."