Starting Fall 2019, students will be able to donate their unused meals to other Vanderbilt students who need them.
Vanderbilt Student Government (VSG) and Campus Dining are collaborating to create a meal swipe donation program in which students can choose to donate up to five unused meals to a general pool of swipes.
Although students can each only donate five meals, Issa believes the plan could have a large effect across campus. If each of Vanderbilt’s 6,800 undergraduate students donated three meals throughout the semester, the meal swipe pool could provide more than 20,500 meals to students in need.
The Financial Aid Office currently provides a meal plan over breaks to students below a certain need threshold. Next semester students below that threshold will also be able to anonymously request a meal if they run out of swipes anytime throughout the academic year, VSG President Tariq Issa said.
Although VSG and Campus Dining are still working out the logistical details, students will most likely donate and request meals through the GET app, Issa said.
Two substantial changes in meal plan format accompany this program, which was spearheaded by VSG Economic Inclusivity committee chair Genesis Allen and Vice President Lanier Langdale.
First, meal plans will come with five Guest Meals. These Guest Meals will function like the five flex meals previously included in the first-year meal plan. Students can use them to treat a guest, to purchase an extra meal when needed, or to donate to the meal swipe pool.
Second, rollover will be discontinued. In the past, students received $3.15 in meal money for each unused meals, up to $50 per semester. Next year, Campus Dining will add an extra $50 to the meal money for each meal plan option. These changes should discourage students from skipping meals just to receive rollover, Langdale said. Additionally, if students have an extra meal at the end of the week, they can donate it without worrying about “wasting” it.
“Ideally with the addition of this program and the years-long transition towards a 19 meal standard, students will have access to food no matter their financial background,” Langdale wrote in an email to the Hustler.
Ellena Soule, a senior studying environmental sociology, said students often feel that it’s wasteful to leave a swipe unused.
“It is a cool way to combat that feeling of wastefulness if you don’t get to use all your meal swipes,” Soule said.
The new meal swipe donation program forms part of a larger movement to combat food insecurity on campus– an issue which VSG has never directly addressed before, Issa said.
“It’s exciting to see just how fast this took hold and how much we’ve been able to accomplish with campus dining and how open they’ve been making sure that this isn’t a problem that we’re facing,” Issa said.