GLASSBORO — About a year ago, we reported on Rowan University President Ali Houshmand's development, manufacturing, and marketing of a homegrown hot sauce, sold for charity and securing of scholarship money.

At the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Houshmand decided to expand his garden of peppers and other produce. But he also wanted to expand the scope of who would be able to benefit from his bounty.

So this fall, Houshmand has enlisted the help of some students who have returned to campus, to bring those fresh goods to food banks, shelters, and in some cases, directly to area families.

Along with the governing board of the university's charitable foundation, Houshmand further developed his idea to include restaurants and food companies near to campus.

That "constant" collaboration, as he characterized it, has come to be called the Rowan-Glassboro Neighbors Table.

Also participating is Rowan's food service provider, Gourmet Dining.

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Any students who are involved are being paid for their work, Houshmand said, and there are protocols to keep them safe during the delivery process, like making use of large university vans so they can socially distance.

That's in addition to "new normal" elements like isolated dorm rooms and access to hospital services and COVID-19 testing.

"This is their home, they're safe on our campus, and we have facilities for them," Houshmand said. "And more importantly, it is extremely important to help our communities and our neighbors at a time when there's really quite a bit of need."

When it comes to food, Houshmand said socioeconomic class is irrelevant; if people have lost their jobs in the course of the pandemic, they naturally need nourishment, and Rowan's president wants his school to be there to help.

So far, he said, more than 300 meals have been delivered, with more than $15,000 raised.

Glassboro has been a "magnificent" partner, according to Houshmand, and he does not view the current partnership as something only valid for this semester or the end-of-year holidays.

"As far as the continuation of this is concerned, as far as I'm concerned, I intend to stay on this thing for as long as it takes," he said. "Even if it goes deep into winter and spring, so be it."

For more on Neighbors Table, visit them here.

Patrick Lavery is New Jersey 101.5's afternoon news anchor. Follow him on Twitter @plavery1015 or email

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