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First-year students launch nonprofit aimed at fighting hunger

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Members of Stomp Out Hunger at UNC pose in front of the Old Well on Tuesday, April 9, 2024.

When first-year student Tommy Mierzwa arrived on UNC’s campus from New Jersey in the fall, he was caught off guard by Chapel Hill's large population of unhoused individuals.

He said the thought of them going without meals crushed him, and he knew he wanted to do something to help.

In late January, Mierzwa launched his nonprofit, Stomp Out Hunger at NC, to combat food insecurity in the local unhoused community. The group is dedicated to collecting leftover food from Greek Life organizations and dropping it off at the Community Kitchen in Carrboro, a volunteer-based organization that provides hot meals. 

“The origins of the group were pretty simple,” UNC first-year Yianni Peroulas, Stomp Out Hunger’s director of community outreach, said. “Tommy’s idea was so great that it wasn’t that hard to get people on board.”

Since its founding, the group has donated more than 1,000 meals and raised more than $1,400 for the Community Kitchen. Mierzwa, who serves as Stomp Out Hunger’s founder and president of operations, said the Community Kitchen originally agreed to work with him over winter break when the nonprofit was still just an idea. 

“They've been extremely grateful for it, and they’ve been all on board with the process from the beginning,” he said.

Mierzwa first donated food from his own fraternity, Sigma Chi. Since then, Stomp Out Hunger has expanded to six other Greek life organizations. Sigma Chi, Alpha Delta Pi, Pi Beta Phi and Phi Mu are the current leading donors, each having given over 200 meals to the organization. 

Cara Pozsonyi, head chef at the Pi Beta Phi sorority house, said the Stomp Out Hunger team has made donating leftover food “seamless.”

On days when Pi Beta Phi has leftover food, Pozsonyi texts a Stomp Out Hunger representative what time the food will be available for pick-up. She and her staff then package the leftovers in disposable aluminum pans before labelling them with the type of dish, the expiration date and heating instructions if necessary.

“They come by, pick up the food, and then I get a text back saying how many people we've served that day,” Pozsonyi said. “We're constantly getting updates about how many meals that they've served and how much money they've donated."

Along with food collection, Stomp Out Hunger began holding fundraisers every other Tuesday, beginning in February. At the first event, individuals on the Quad could “pie” organization members with whipped cream in exchange for a $5 donation. During the five hours they were outside, the organization raised $416.98.

Since then, Stomp Out Hunger has held other fundraisers on the Quad, selling ice cream, cookies and popsicles. They also benefited from a fraternity concert fundraiser earlier this month, receiving almost $450

“So many people aren't even interested in getting the ice cream or getting the pie,” Sophia Cox, the organization's director of design, said. “Everyone's just really willing to help. It's a really good community on campus.”

To keep momentum going, Cox said she wants to launch a weekly newsletter featuring the number of meals donated per week and any updates. Mierzwa and Peroulas both said they hope to keep building local enthusiasm around the organization.

Peroulas said the nonprofit wants to continue expanding their efforts so that both students and community members can become involved in the initiative to support people in need around the Chapel Hill-Carrboro area. 

In the future, Mierzwa said he wants to increase monetary donations, establish an official student organization on campus and get other Greek Life houses and restaurants on board. Pozsonyi said she has been impressed with the group from the start.

“The eagerness that they have — I can't say more great things about this organization,” Pozsonyi said.

@dailytarheel | university@dailytarheel.com

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