Samantha Guillaume creates sustainable solutions

Photo of Food for Community team

Samantha Guillaume, a student from Manlius, NY and senior in the Sustainable Energy Management program at SUNY ESF, is a visionary who is inspired to make a difference in the world.  Along with her focus on sustainability, “Sam” has been involved in projects with Upstate Medical University, helping provide accessible paths, particularly for people with physical and mental disabilities.  She has been involved in the Sustainable Energy Club, as well as the Syracuse University softball team, throughout her time at SUNY ESF.

Sam has the drive and focus that makes her a dedicated entrepreneur. When asked about three pieces of advice she would give to people who want to pursue a venture, she said: “Don’t give up. Remember why you started and stick to your passion. Build a team of people with a wide range of skills that you trust.”

Her entrepreneurial nature has inspired her to become a leader in the community.

Struck by invisible food poverty in her own neighborhood, Sam set out to make some changes in the community and do what she could to help. She realized how pervasive the problem is, with nearly 49 million Americans struggling with hunger each year. Being born and raised in the area, she began to realize how much food waste was occurring in nearby communities.

With her entrepreneurial nature, Sam was determined to make a change. She narrowed in on three problems:  hunger, food waste, and under education on proper sustainable practices in many communities. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United States, roughly one third of all food produced in the world is wasted per year.

Sam was determined to find a solution that started in her own backyard. She decided to create a food recovery program with three main purposes: reduction of food waste in surroundings areas, education of students on how proper sustainable food practices, and food security.  She called it  Food for Community, and launched a food recovery network to transport food from local schools to local food pantries in the community. She teamed up with Patrick Carleton, also a senior in the Sustainable Energy Management major at SUNY ESF, who is the financial and accounting manager at Food for Community.

Food for Community created a relationship with the Fayetteville Manlius School District by establishing a connection with a staff member and through that person to meet with the district office to discuss their ideas. Food for Community now makes two trips a week to the Fayetteville Manlius School District to collect unused food, consisting of milk and other unopened packages. They take the food to the Fayetteville Manlius Community Outreach center, which is a non-profit located in the area which alleviates hunger by providing emergency food assistance and also clothing for school-age children. Over 150 households are registered with the center, which provides up to 60,000 meals per year to families and individuals in need.

Sam and Patrick took entrepreneurship courses to further their idea, worked with the Blackstone LaunchPad, and recently second place in the Syracuse University Impact Prize competition last fall – a campus-wide social entrepreneurship competition.  They recently won a cash award in the iPrize competition, and will represent Syracuse University at the New York State Business Plan Competition in Albany on April 27.

Sam’s biggest challenge developing Food for Community was, “Thinking it would be simple. It’s a lot of work and effort.”  But, the hard work that Sam and Patrick have put in have changed lives and prevented unused food from going to waste.

Sam says that her biggest role model is Linda Dickerson Hartsock, who taught her EEE class at Whitman and is executive director of the Blackstone LaunchPad, “Hand’s down.”  Sam says that Linda assisted her through every step and inspired her to “do ALL of this.”

Sam hopes to expand Food for Communities into other school districts, in an around Syracuse.  She had several job offers after graduation, but elected to take one that will keep her local, enable her to pursue her interests in sustainability management, and pursue her passion for Food for Community. She couldn’t be more excited about the future as she heads to graduation in May, and Syracuse is fortunate to keep this mission-driver leader here as a future community leader.

Story by Salli Shackleford Mandel

Photo of Samantha and Patrick by Blackstone LaunchPad