Meal initiative takes aim at student food insecurity

By Gianluca D’Elia

A new initiative to provide guest meal swipes to students in need will provide more hot meals, which are a necessity that the recently opened food pantry is unable to provide.

The idea of college students going home hungry is not as surprising as one may think it is. The challenges faced by low-income students have led local universities like Rider to expand their resources. Most recently, the university began a program in which students can donate guest swipes from their meal plan to a peer in need.

The option to donate guest swipes from a spring semester meal plan has been available since March 19, and donations will resume next fall as well. The swipes will be assigned anonymously to students who have utilized Rider’s food pantry, which was implemented in February at the Vona Academic Annex.

“Here we are at a private school — it’s a wake-up call to all of us to realize just how many of our own students are in need,” said Jan Friedman-Krupnick, the university’s assistant vice president of student affairs. “I’m so excited about this program, and that students are saying, ‘I want to do something.’ I know of students that I’ve worked with who have not had food to eat. It’s really great to enhance what the food pantry is doing by providing meals for people.”

She also expressed appreciation for student food donation coordinator Leanna DeMarco, the first student to approach the university about donating leftovers from Daly Dining Hall to homeless shelters.

Rider joined several other schools in the area who have taken steps to address student poverty and food insecurity. In 2017, Rutgers, Montclair State, Cabrini, Rowan and Stockton opened up pantries, and Temple and TCNJ plan to open their own in the near future, said Dana Lopes, assistant director of Student Support Services.

The donation of leftover meal plan swipes has seen success at other universities already. New York University implemented a similar program in 2016 after Jon Chin, a graduate student who founded the organization Share Meals, conducted a survey and discovered that over 45,000 swipes had gone unused.

Friedman-Krupnick said she approached Aramark, Rider’s dining services provider, to see if students could donate their guest passes to students who did not have a meal plan and needed to use the food pantry.

“In the pantry, we don’t have hot foods; we just have non-perishables,” she said. “Aramark agreed to partner with us, and within five minutes after the form went out, we had 10 people who donated.”

At Rider, a study from the financial aid office found that 30 percent of students fall within the low-income guidelines, suggesting that there is a substantial number of students who have limited financial resources, according to Lopes.

By March 22, just three days after the initiative was announced, the number of students who donated guest passes from their meal plan had risen to 33, Friedman-Krupnick said.

“As soon as it went up on Bronc Nation, people donated right away,” Lopes said. “It was touching to see people giving. We weren’t sure if people would pay attention, or if they’d actually donate. The response has been great.”

Students looking to donate extra meal swipes can register online under the Campus Links section of Bronc Nation. For more information about accessing the food pantry and guest swipes, contact Dana Lopes at dlopes@rider.edu.

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