A Young ΦΒΚ Graduate Responds to Growing Food Waste Amid the World’s First Pandemic

Cameron DiGiovanni photo

By Bilal Siddiq

The novel coronavirus is posing more than a few challenges for seniors finishing up this year and hitting the job market.

Not only are new positions scarce, but the prospects for next year are also looking equally dim. With little guidance to go on from officials in either the government or from the world of healthcare, making career plans now is tougher than ever before. 

In other words, it isn’t the best time to get started on your post-graduate life, and organizations are taking note.

Perhaps that’s why people like Cameron DiGiovanni (ΦΒΚ, Hamilton College) are trying to make the best of a trying situation.

Taking a job with grassroots non-profit food organization FarmLink, DiGiovanni is hoping to further his skills for the job market and prepare himself for his start in law school. 

Coronavirus has introduced an interesting paradox: as thousands of Americans struggle to find adequate food, farmers are being forced to throw out literal tons of food that, with restaurants shut down, have no buyers. As the pandemic continues on for longer than anyone had initially anticipated, the situation only grows more dire and the wastage more grotesque. 

Discussing how the organization got its start, DiGiovanni said that it was essentially spread among people who knew each other and wanted to do something about the waste. Since then, however, their endeavors have grown rapidly, and they now boast 190 team members and state that they have shipped over 6 million pounds of produce. 

Started in May of this year to provide students with a way to maintain employment during the pandemic, FarmLink has grown to encompass much more than just that. FarmLink is giving graduates a taste of the real world and giving back at the same time. Recognizing the special challenges presented by the novel coronavirus, Hamilton College extended its summer internship funding to graduating seniors to help them with their transition during this shaky economic time. 

DiGiovanni credited Hamilton College and the program, saying, “I’m continually amazed at how much of a difference we have made even though we’re all working remotely. But as we always say, this is only the beginning.”

And the experience is giving more than just a firm understanding of farming and logistics—it is also giving him key skills in relationship building. 

DiGiovanni sees his time with the organization as a way to learn more about food protocols and safety aspects of the fledgling organization in order to learn more about the legal side of things before beginning law school next year. 

DiGiovanni greatly credits his liberal arts education in preparing him for his invaluable work at FarmLink in two ways. “Taking a wide range of courses certainly exposed me to many different fields, and FarmLink actually piqued my interest thanks to a climate change class I took at Hamilton,” DiGiovanni said. “In addition, the liberal arts education has prepared me to dive eagerly into new topics.” 

“I knew nothing about transportation upon starting at FarmLink, but I was very quickly able to familiarize myself with shipping procedures and protocols,” DiGiovanni explained. “I also think that curiosity and the pursuit of intellectual stimulation are cultivated and reinforced by a liberal arts education, and I certainly benefited from that during my time at Hamilton College.”

FarmLink’s unique mission and elegant response to this intricate problem has been making an impact locally as well as garnering national attention. Featured in such major outlets as The New York Times and The Today Show, FarmLink’s broader mission during the novel coronavirus lockdown resonates particularly with a society where many people are facing job and food insecurity in the coming months. 

But, remarkably, DiGiovanni hasn’t stopped there. On top of his groundbreaking work for FarmLink, he has been interning with Partners Healthcare Innovation, a subsidiary of Mass General Hospital. There he has been not only furthering his knowledge on intellectual property law, but also assisting the organization in the finance and transactional affairs departments. 

Photo: Cameron DiGiovanni discusses FarmLink for Hamilton College from his garden.

Bilal Siddiq earned his bachelor’s degree in neuroscience from Rhodes College in Memphis, where he was inducted to Phi Beta Kappa in April of 2020. Rhodes College is home to the Gamma of Tennessee chapter of Phi Beta Kappa.