The Dining Services team and the Office of Urban and Off-Campus Support Services (U-ACCESS) have partnered in order to create a program in which students can donate one of their Guest Meal swipes to a student in need of a meal.
According to the U-ACCESS Food Pantry Website, a 2018 Hope Lab Basic Needs Security Report revealed that two in every five UMass Boston students are food insecure, meaning they do not have reliable access to enough nutritious and affordable food. All residential meal plans include five Guest Meal swipes, and every student with a residential meal plan has the ability to donate one Guest Meal to a student who is food insecure per semester, through the Dining Services and U-ACCESS partnership.
The partnership between U-ACCESS and the Dining Services Team is not new; however, this specific program was a project the two organizations collaborated on this past summer. U-ACCESS proposes the date for a donation solicitation event that they may table, while Dining Services provides the location for the donation drive process to occur. The project was first rolled out on Oct. 8, at a lunch event in which U-ACCESS first solicited donations. The program has garnered 50 donations so far, and is hoping to gather more.
Any student on a residential meal plan can go to the U-ACCESS office and pick up and sign a donation acknowledgement form. The process is simple; students only have to fill in their first and last name, student ID number, and then sign the document. Though a student may go fill out a form and give a meal swipe at any time, the use of donation solicitation in Dining Areas is a strategy that the program hopes will augment the amount of donations given.
The partnership’s next donation solicitation event has just been confirmed to be taking place on Tuesday, Nov. 19 from 5–7:30 p.m. in the Dining Commons in the East Residence Hall.
After a student donates a Guest Meal, the process of the meal transfer is “seamless,” according to Dining Services General Manager Mike Reilly. A donated meal is simply loaded on to the Beacon Card of a student in need, who may then use the meal swipe at any meal in the Dining Commons. According to the U-ACCESS Donation Program Details sheet, the transfer system aims to ensure “traceability, security and discretion,” when donated meals are redeemed.
The Dining Services Team is hopeful for a larger number of Guest Meal donations with the usage of more promotion next semester, according to Alex Zolotov, the Dining Services Marketing Specialist. Zolotov and Reilly said that another donation solicitation event is likely to occur right around or shortly after Thanksgiving as well.
According to a U-ACCESS Donation Program Details document, the potential for Guest Meal donations is over 2,100 student donations, which totals over $30,000 in meal donations per academic year. Reilly remarked: “I’d be happy if we broke 1,000, but 2,000 would be amazing.”
Any student with a question regarding the meal donation process may contact Valerie Lamour, U-ACCESS Program Coordinator, at 617-287-3195, or send her an email at Valerie.firstname.lastname@example.org.
Students who are struggling with food insecurity are encouraged to visit the U-ACCESS office, or email the Food Pantry team at email@example.com. The office is located in the Campus Center on the Second Floor, in Suite 2401.