Since last year, ASG, Chartwells, and Full Circle Food Pantry have partnered in on what is known as the Meal Donation Program on the UA campus.
This program gives students the opportunity to donate their unused FLEX dollars and or cash at any of the main dining halls on campus. The donations are turned into vouchers via Chartwells, and students, or anyone with a university ID, are then able to use these vouchers for any one hot meal.
This year, the donation drive started at the beginning of spring semester, and since then, meals have been distributed throughout the year.
Casey O’Grady, ASG Director of Philanthropy, and a senior at the UofA, said that this program is really focusing on students helping students, and the help to alleviate hunger needs on campus.
“I feel that there’s a lot of need that people are unaware of,” O’Grady said. “This is a great way to help students in our own backyards.”
O’Grady also said that as the Meal Donation Program helps students, they also supply more information to about the Full Circle Food Pantry located on campus.
Matthew Watters, chair of the Full Circle Food Pantry, said that this program has been popular, and he thinks that it is a wonderful idea.
“I love the fact that students can directly give back to the University community in such an easy way,” Watters said. “This way, students are directly helping other students on their campus.”
Watters also said that he thinks the Meal Donation Program is a great benefit to the campus as whole.
“What a great way to not only give back, but also be sustainable,” he said. “Now these "unused' meals are directly benefiting students and staff who might not know when their next meal is.”
According to Watters, the Full Circle Food Pantry has also been able to partner with Club Red on campus through the Meal Donation Program.
“Last semester, students donated their leftover flex dollars and that money was directly credited towards snack items from Club Red,” Watters said. “This was a great help because it gave us some items we don't typically have at our pantry such as microwavable soups, granola bars, and crackers.”
In addition, Watters said that this program is important for the UofA because while the food pantry offers food assistance, they don’t offer the option of fresh cooked meals.
“There is a lot to be said about having the meal already prepared for students,” Watters said. “Some students may be hungry on campus, and for reasons of being too busy to cook.”
“Giving them items to cook with from the pantry is only an intermediate solution, a meal voucher gives them the accessibility to a fresh warm meal during a time of food insecurity in their life.”
O’Grady said that they are hoping to improve next year by increasing awareness since the program is still in it’s early stages. She said that they are hoping to cover both semesters in the future, rather than just one.