CDS, Tiger Pantry collaborate to organize meal donation program

Students with meal plans will be able to donate up to 10 swipes to Tiger Pantry clients

As the end of the semester nears, many students with meal plans are queuing up at dining halls, stocking up on snacks and swiping in as many people as possible to use up excess swipes.

However, a new program will allow students to donate their extra swipes to students who need them.

Next semester, Campus Dining Services and Tiger Pantry will be piloting a meal transfer program that will allow students who have extra swipes to donate up to 10 meals at a time to Tiger Pantry clients.

Incoming Tiger Pantry director Rachel Volmert has worked with CDS, the Arts and Science Student Council and other student governments to plan the pilot program, which they anticipate will be usable by the beginning of next semester.

“To donate, all you need to do is fill out a form online,” Volmert said. “To receive, all you have to do is say at the pantry that you’re interested in participating in the program. So it is minimal effort for people transferring and people receiving.”

Beginning next January, a form on the CDS website will walk students through the process of donating swipes to the program.

Tiger Pantry will provide CDS with the ID numbers of Tiger Pantry clients who have opted into the program, and CDS will then transfer the swipes to them. The transferred swipes will be redeemable only at all-you-can-eat locations, such as Rollins and Plaza 900, and cannot be used at a-la-carte locations, such as Emporium.

CDS Director Julaine Kiehn said the program is not yet finalized since next semester’s program will only be a pilot. This spring, only student clients — both undergraduate and graduate — will be eligible to receive transferred meals. It is also unclear how many meals each student will be able to receive; Volmert said that will depend on how many swipes are transferred.

Because swipes do not roll over into the next semester, Kiehn said that students who plan to donate swipes must do so at least two weeks before the end of the semester.

However, because students with meal plans often do not realize they have excess swipes until the end of the semester, they may not think to transfer their meals to Tiger Pantry until it is too late for them to be useful.

Volmert said Tiger Pantry will be launching marketing efforts to encourage students to donate swipes early, so that they can be used by Pantry clients throughout the semester. She said she hopes that since the program is being piloted in the second semester, current freshmen who have meal plans will be more familiar with how many swipes they will not use next year.

In previous years, Tiger Pantry has attempted to reach out to students with extra swipes by tabling outside of Emporium and encouraging students to purchase a-la-carte items for the organization. However, it has not been possible to donate swipes directly.

Although the meal transfer program will not be available until next semester, Volmert said there will be collection bins in each of the residence halls for food item donations, and she encourages students to buy non-perishable items with their excess swipes.

Freshman Naomi Klinge had 153 swipes left on her meal plan right before she left for Thanksgiving break. She said she would be interested in a program where she would be able to donate some of her unused swipes to others.

“I think that's a great system, because I have so many swipes and at this point that's a lot of food and money that's just being wasted when other people who need it could be using it,” Klinge said.

According to a 2014 study done by Feeding America, 17.2 percent of Boone County residents were food-insecure, meaning that they had limited access to adequate food or were forced to choose between buying groceries or other basic household necessities. Food insecurity was established in households that earned up to 185 percent of the federal poverty level.

While Boone County’s statistics don’t necessarily reflect how pervasive food insecurity is in the university community, Volmert said Tiger Pantry works to ensure that clients do not need to be concerned about where their next meal may be coming from.

“Food insecurity is something that you cannot see,” Volmert said. “The people sitting next to you in class could be food insecure, and you do not know. When you have to worry about where your next meal is coming from, it makes it that much harder to go through work if you’re staff or faculty, or studies if you’re a student. If there is something we can do to take that burden off your shoulders, I think we should do it.”

This semester, Tiger Pantry has 469 clients who are undergraduate students, and the organization has served 1153 people since April 2015. Any student, faculty or staff member can become a Tiger Pantry member regardless of personal or family income, and they have access to food once a month and fresh produce weekly.

Volmert said implementing a meal transfer program will give students an easy avenue to help other students who may be in need.

“Food insecurity is a lot bigger of an issue than most students realize,” Volmert said. “If you’re not food-insecure you may never think about it and when you have this resource that is not being fully-utilized and you have Campus Dining Services, who are being supportive of this program, and you can use these resources to help out another person, why wouldn’t you?”

Edited by Emily Gallion | egallion@themaneater.com

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