Lanchoney brings fresh produce to food banks

George Lancheny (center) researching at the Island School alongside research leader (left) and classmate (right)

While most of the community spent the final days of last spring semester’s in-person portion speculating when the campus would be forced to lock its gates, current Sixth Former George Lanchoney stood in a marine research facility within walking distance of pristine Caribbean waters, soaking in what he realized would be one of his last chances to examine Caribbean lobsters and Florida stone crabs hands-on. 

     Twenty days prior, Lanchoney had flown to the Island School’s campus on the southern tip of Eleuthera island in the Bahamas. He planned to attend a 100-day semester on the island with high school sophomores and juniors from around the world. Without the distractions of cell phones and the internet, he and his peers conducted applied sciences research through analysis of the surrounding ocean. Together, they studied the humanities from cultural immersion experiences in the local Bahamian community. The courses centered on sustainability in the 21st century, a topic that aligned closely with Lanchoney’s long-standing passion for the environment.

     “I’ve always had it, and I don’t know why I’m passionate about the environment. There’s no real reason to know why you like just being in nature, but I think it makes me think differently,” Lanchoney said. “[Nature] has a primitive connection with [the Earth], and it’s inspiring to really be in it.”

    For the last four weeks of the semester, which finished through virtual instruction, program participants were required to either conduct further research or create an environmental business or project. Lanchoney and a group of friends chose the latter option.

     “We tried a cardboard composting business because cardboard is actually excellent for composting, but it’s often not even recycled very efficiently,” Lanchoney said. “But with the COVID restrictions in place and with the logistics of it and us being so far apart—two kids were in Boston, and another two kids who were down south in Georgia and Florida—it wasn’t feasible.”

George Lanchoney ’21 delivering 200 lbs. of white mushrooms from Stinson Mushroom Farm in Hockessin, Delaware to MANNA Food Bank in Philadelphia – George Lanchoney ’21

     They attempted instead to create a project for recycling materials into trinkets; however, they soon met with similar challenges as before. 

     “It would have also been very difficult because we would have to hand-make each one [trinket] unless we found some manufacturing system. To mass-produce these would be impossible in such a short period of time—we only had four weeks to really get it going,” Lanchoney said. 

     In the end, after reading an article about the Farmlink Project, a Boston-based initiative led by university students fighting food insecurity by repurposing farmers’ surplus produce in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Lanchoney began his own project of connecting local farms with food banks that would receive the excess food. It was difficult at first to establish a correspondence with the farmers and organizations.

     “I emailed over at least a hundred people … none of them responded. I didn’t know why. I thought, Was it because I’m not a big enough organization? Was it because, you know, I’m only like 17? I didn’t think people would actually take me seriously,” Lanchoney said.

     However, after receiving advice from the Farmlink Project organizers and further farmer contact details from Philabundance, a Philadelphia food bank, Lanchoney struck success. 

     The next thing he knew, he was filling his trunk full of mushrooms.

     “My first connection actually came from my family friends who had a connection to this mushroom farm down in Delaware,” he said. “And so, my first delivery was driving 200 pounds of mushrooms to a food bank in Philadelphia called MANNA.”

     The number of responses increased shortly after, and Lanchoney recognized that farmers would work with him on similar projects. 

     “I realized [that] these people are really willing to work with me, and I was kind of casting a bit of a net now,” Lanchoney said. 

     Lanchoney and an organizer of the Honey Brook Food Pantry then launched an official campaign called “From Farms to Food Banks” with support from the county commissioner. The contact information provided by the county allowed Lanchoney to form connections with rural farmers. 

     “All these local farmers would actually have these roadside stands, but they wouldn’t be connected to the internet because they were kind of in Lancaster and these Amish areas where it was very rural,” Lanchoney said.

“I’ve made my mark. Some still need help, and some don’t. The rural farms now have connections.”

Geroge Lanchoney ’21

     The campaign expanded drastically with an expanded net of correspondence. Now that his program has been fully realized, Lanchony holds a less direct role in its daily operations; nevertheless, he continues to receive updates on the project’s success.  

     “I’ve made my mark. Some still need help, and some don’t. The rural farms now have connections,” he said. “From what I’ve been hearing—because I don’t do the deliveries myself anymore—it has been going great. In total, they’re getting around 1200 pounds of produce per week from these local farms. It’s pretty crazy.”

     Lanchoney hopes his effort helped both farms and food banks navigate through the coronavirus pandemic. Even though the excess of food is now less of an issue without a lockdown in place, he sees the campaign as a reminder that food waste harms the environment regardless of a pandemic.

“It felt right to do something, to help all types of people and the environment. The farms were able to not waste their food—literally, I’ve heard [that farmers] would bury a million pounds of onions. With this COVID [pandemic] in general, the most impacted people, I’m able to help them by [supporting] these food banks, which are really suffering these days,” Lanchoney said. “Any sort of food waste hurts the environment in an indirect way because then we just have to grow more food [after it is wasted] and [the cycle] just depletes the Earth of resources slowly over time.”

To Lanchoney, the project served as a testament to what a group of individuals can achieve when they unify under the common mission of helping others.

“It transcends politics. Anyone can do it—anyone at Haverford, really, or anyone in my position can do what I did. I only really had the internet. I didn’t have any connections,” Lanchoney said.

Lanchoney has gained confidence in his own ability to make an impact on his community. 

“I feel that now I can really like all issues going on, and I didn’t think of it that way when I started it [the campaign],” he said. “We just kind of did whatever we could do because we were a little bit rushed.”

“I want my work to be truly universal: charity concerts, everyone loves music; building a house, everyone needs shelter; and food, everyone needs food.”

George Lanchoney 21

Moving forward, Lanchoney feels he is ready to move his focus onto different projects. He plans to organize a charity concert: Lanchoney has arranged multiple concerts in the past, one which raised $4,000 for local food banks, and was set to have one prior to the pandemic that was ultimately canceled. In past initiatives, he has also raised proceeds for a housing project in Guatemala. Lanchoney aspires through his future initiatives to make an impact globally and to bring people together through service.

“I want my work to be this worldwide thing that is not just specified to one country or one place or one type of person or one type of idea, religion, or whatever,” Lanchoney said. “I want my work to be truly universal: charity concerts, everyone loves music; building a house, everyone needs shelter; and food, everyone needs food. Those are just like examples of the stuff I want to do that transcends the divisions of the modern-day world. I want to cast a big net.”

Author: Jeffrey Yang '22

Managing editor Jeffrey Yang has written for The Index since 2018. He previously served as news editor. His feature "Fords immigrants under the spotlight: Mr. Kan's citizenship odyssey" earned a Gold Key from the 2020 Philadelphia-area Scholastic Writing Awards.