During the week of Reading Day, students donated nearly 500 meal swipes to the meal bank to help students in need.
The meal swipe donation pilot program aims to address food insecurity among students at Ohio University. The pilot is part of the Bobcats Helping Bobcats program, where students can aid other students in emergency situations.
“This meal donation program is a pilot program to assist students who are experiencing food insecurity on Ohio University’s Athens campus,” university spokesperson Dan Pittman said in an email.
Students were able to donate up to three meal swipes between Sept. 30 and Oct. 6 at The District on West Green, Nelson Court and Shively Court register stands, Pittman said. Students, regardless of which meal plan they had, were able to donate.
Students who are facing food insecurity are able to apply for the program online, Jenny Hall-Jones, senior associate vice president and dean of students, said.
“Anyone who is experiencing hunger right now can go in to this little online application and just say ‘This is who I am’,” Hall-Jones said. “You answer these two questions, and then you submit it.”
Kathy Fahl, assistant dean of students, then talks to the student in person. If the student is approved, meal swipes are loaded onto their account. Hall-Jones said she thinks most students get approved.
“Meals will be loaded directly on the student’s OHIO ID card and can be used at any Dining Court, Shively Grab N Go or Boyd Market’s Smooth Moves,” Pittman said in an email. “These meals will expire at the end of the semester in which they are awarded.”
The pilot program went well for its first time, Hall-Jones said. Exactly 497 meal swipes were donated over the course of the week.
“I feel good about almost 500,” Hall-Jones said.
Some students didn’t know how the program worked, which prevented them from donating.
“I just don’t know a lot about it,” Emma Shrivers, a freshman studying special education, said.
Hall-Jones said that she thought the word for the program got out a bit late. Students received an email about the meal bank initiative from Ohio University Culinary Services.
“It wasn’t very descriptive in the email,” Shrivers said.
Hall-Jones said that there are already plans to continue the program, beginning with next semester.
“The plan for spring is we’re going to do it the week before spring break,” Hall-Jones said. “[It’s] another week when students leave early, so they should have extra meal swipes to give.”
Pittman said students with a flex meal plan, who are looking to help students in need, can also use extra swipes at the markets and donate food to the food pantry located in Baker Center.
In the future, students in need may receive even more swipes from the meal bank than before. Details are still being decided as need for the program is assessed.
“This is why it’s kind of a pilot: we’re trying to see how much people need, how much they’re willing to give,” Hall-Jones said.