By Regina Stracqualursi

Adam Fellows was a senior at Vernon Verona Sherrill High School when he first discovered his passion for community service. As he sought induction into the National Honor Society, he planned to collect food for a local food pantry as part of a service requirement. However, after discovering his local food pantry had closed in his Central New York hometown, Fellows was determined to fill this need for his community. Rather than pursue a more traditional route of an internship for the service requirement, he decided to create a self-serve food pantry.

The pantry, located near his local town hall, may look small from the outside but it plays a major role in his community. The 2-by-4-foot stand has a plexiglass door that reads, “Give what you can, take what you need.” Operating by the honor system, community members are encouraged to donate nonperishable food items to help those facing hunger when they are able to and to take the donations when they are struggling to put food on the table. “No matter how small of a donation you give, you know it’s going to help someone,” Fellows said. His work has inspired those in bordering communities to build their own food pantries.

This fall, the second-year economics student at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute was recognized by Hormel Foods as a “10 Under 20 Food Hero.” The inaugural award honors 10 individuals “who are working to create a better world by designing innovative ways for a more transparent, secure, and sustainable food system.” As part of this award, Fellows received $2,000 in grant money, which he chose to donate to Madison-Oneida Child Protective Services.

Community service continues to play a major role in Fellows’ life as he pursues his bachelor’s degree in the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences. “You can do such a small thing and have such a big effect on so many people,” he said. He serves as the media relations fundraising chair for the Rensselaer Habitat for Humanity club. Additionally, while currently studying remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Fellows has had the opportunity to visit and maintain his pantry more frequently than he was able to during a normal semester at school. “Almost as soon as I see new items enter the pantry, they’re always gone,” he said.