Hamza Elhabbal, Student Government President, Le Moyne College
June 27, 2018
The Le Monye College Student Government Association 2017-2018.
The Le Moyne College Student Government has paired up with the college administration and food provider Sodexo to launch a new meal-sharing program, ‘Phins Share Meals. On February 28th, 2018, Le Moyne College held its annual Giving Day, where this program was first introduced. This program is geared to give students the ability to donate a meal to a fellow Le Moyne Dolphin in need. Hunger is a worldwide problem which is easy to forget as it is unseen. When we think of hunger, we often don’t think about the person sitting next to us; we think about “someone” somewhere else out there. We think of hunger as a distant problem, and often don’t realize that the person next to us could be struggling to eat every day.
What originally brought Student Government’s attention to food insecurity was something that seems completely unrelated, commuter student engagement. This is an issue most campuses face; as a commuter, it can be easy to become inactive for many reasons. As the Student Government began to research the reasons for this issue, we realized that is was not a lack of community that drove the commuters home (pun intended), it was the lack of access to affordable food. The main reason students commute is because they can’t afford college room and board. After doing some research, we noticed that it was not only commuter students who had food insecurities, but also residential students with a low meal plan choice. We began to look for solutions. Opening a food pantry was the first thing that came to mind. However, it seemed like a duplication of effort, as there were plenty of food pantries within our local community. Instead, we had to find a way to make those resources visible to our students, and to make them feel comfortable enough to seek them.
During our search for a solution, the Office of Campus Ministry was collecting a small amount of meal swipes to feed some of their students going on a service trip. This gave Student Government the idea of adopting a similar program for the issue we were facing. Le Moyne College’s residential meal plans are set up to allocate a certain number of meals per week. Meals do not roll over to the next week; whatever is not used, is lost. So why couldn’t we donate meals we don’t use to students who need them? We decided to meet with our campus food provider, as well as the offices of Campus Ministry, Campus Life, Student Development, and the Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program (C-STEP). As a result, a small committee with representatives from Student Government and each office was created. The positive and supportive response of these offices was an example of our Jesuit mission to be men and women for others. This shared passion to help students in need was the impetus for creating ‘Phins Share Meals. However, a program like this would not be easy to set up.
Some of the obstacles we faced were how to differentiate which students had food insecurities, as well as how to collect and distribute the meals? The committee wanted the distribution of these meals to be discrete as to not make the recipients uncomfortable using the donated meal. Administrators from our Campus Life office and Sodexo, figured out a way to add the meals as “guest swipes” onto the recipient’s student ID, this way, they can swipe into the cafeteria like any other student. Knowing that this program will not completely solve students’ food insecurities at home, the ‘Phins Share Meals committee also created an application process for students to apply to receive these meals through Campus Ministry. After applying, students must meet with a designated chaplain, to get some background information on their circumstances, make sure they are doing OK, and that they are aware of some of the local resources they have available to them. This initiative can do more than feed a student, its goal is to get them back on their feet.
The ‘Phins Share Meals committee managed to finalize the program in time to incorporate it with our annual Le Moyne College Giving Day. College students don’t exactly have much money to give away. However, students do have the ability to donate a meal, knowing that someone on their campus will use it. Student Government set a goal of 500 meal donations in total during Giving Day. We advertised and spread the word all around campus. At the end of the day, we were eagerly waiting to hear the result of our campus’s hard work. 1481 meals were donated by 473 students. Our goal was nearly tripled. Le Moyne College administration is overseeing the continuation of the ‘Phins Share Meals program as the student leaders involved with creating it graduate.
Mother Teresa once said, “If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.” It’s amazing how many undiscovered opportunities there are to help others. And although it may be overwhelming to attempt tackling a worldwide problem like hunger, it is much easier to feed one person at a time, starting with the person next to you.
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