Dining Services manager named a Sodexo Hero of Everyday Life
Chris Harasta receives national award for dedication to local sustainability and fighting food insecurity
If you’ve eaten in the MarketPlace, you’ve likely seen Chris Harasta hustling around, making sure everything runs smoothly as you grab a bubble tea or Tully’s tenders. What you may not know, is that in addition to his role as retail operations manager with Binghamton University Dining Services (BUDS), Harasta is active in several local organizations, seamlessly connecting his passion for sustainability and fighting food insecurity with his work at the University. He dedicates much of his spare time to the Food Recovery Network, the Move Out Project and Volunteers Improving Neighborhood Environments (VINES).
Harasta was one of five employees nationwide recognized by the Sodexo Stop Hunger Foundation for investing significant time and talent into fighting food insecurity in his community. He was presented with the 2023 Heroes of Everyday Life® award at the Sodexo Charity Classic in Colorado Springs, Colo., in late June. The award includes a $5,000 grant that Harasta will use to continue supporting his efforts.
“It’s a huge honor, and I’m thrilled that the organizations that I volunteer with were able to be in the spotlight,” Harasta said. “I don’t feel like a hero. I just do what I think I should be doing.”
Two of the initiatives he’s active in are directly tied to his work at Binghamton University. He works with Binghamton’s student-led chapter of Food Recovery Network to eliminate food waste on campus, redistributing unserved food from the dining halls and MarketPlace to local food pantries with the help of the Community Hunger Outreach Warehouse.
“I don’t see my work with Food Recovery Network as a volunteer activity,” Harasta said. “I see it as a responsibility of my job.”
Over the past three years, Harasta has become instrumental in the success of another campus sustainability initiative, the Move Out Project. This volunteer-run initiative seeks to divert students’ unwanted items away from the landfill and back into the community as they move off campus in May. Founded in 2018 by local student Christina Fuller ’19, MPA ’21, the Move Out Project has grown substantially and is now an official project of the Susquehanna Group of the Sierra Club, co-led by Fuller and Harasta.
“The project runs for a brief window in May, but I spend the entire year planning for it,” said Harasta. “It’s awesome to see it grow and flourish!”
Harasta plans to use the grant funding from the Sodexo Stop Hunger Foundation to help the Move Out Project increase its donation goal for May 2024.
“We’re looking at purchasing some equipment that will make on-campus collections much easier and enable us to divert even more items from the landfill,” he said.
Harasta also helps maintain a community garden in his neighborhood as a site coordinator for VINES, ensuring that his neighbors have the tools and knowledge that they need to produce their own fresh food.
“I am so proud of Chris’s passion for helping those in need and the way he has engaged the Binghamton University community in his passion,” said Jim Ruoff, BUDS district manager. “Chris doesn’t do this work with the Food Recovery Network or the Move Out Project for the awards. He does it to truly help provide for those in need with the excess that many of us enjoy. That is why he is so deserving of this award.”
“If you’re interested in tackling hunger in your own community,” Harasta said, “start by talking to the people who are already doing it. They probably need the help. And if you’re not collecting waste, you’re missing an opportunity, because the waste is always there.”