Help a Hungry Tiger
Beginning this week, MU students can transfer up to 10 meals to help feed their fellow students. Faculty, staff, and students from the College of Arts and Science, Campus Dining Services, Missouri Student Association, Residence Halls Association, Tiger Pantry, and other organizations have spent the past few months developing a pilot program that will allow students to transfer unused meals to students who may be food insecure. Rachel Volmert, an MU senior and the director of Tiger Pantry, says state reports find nearly one in five Boone County residents don’t know where their next meal will come from—which is the definition of food insecurity.
“I see student hunger all of the time, but food insecurity is not something that is obvious,” Volmert says. “If you are food secure, you can walk around campus and go to class and not know the student sitting next to you does not have adequate access to nutritious food. College is expensive, and a lot of times students don’t have money left over to buy the food they should be eating.”
Identifying the Problem
The momentum for this semester’s pilot program began last fall when Wendy Sims, a professor in the School of Music and the parent of an MU student, contacted A&S Associate Dean Ted Tarkow to ask what could be done with her child’s leftover meals, which expire at the end of each semester. Tarkow then got in touch with Campus Dining Services Director Julaine Kiehn, A&S Student Council President Blake Nourie, and a few others to solicit ideas.
“I got an email from Dean Tarkow alerting me to a potential opportunity to do something as the A&S Student Council,” says Nourie, “and at our first meeting, we came up with the logistics of how this might work.”
Nourie says the A&S Student Council holds a couple of events each year to benefit Tiger Pantry, but he wasn’t really aware some of his fellow students might be food insecure.
“It wasn’t until these meetings that I realized how many MU students have food security issues, so that was eye-opening. Once I found out about that, I talked to others in class and in the dorms and realized how easy this program could be if we get the information out there,” Nourie says.
The Nuts and Bolts
Each MU student who would like to transfer meals to other students can visit the Tiger Pantry website (https://tigerpantry.missouri.edu/) and fill out a form (click on the “Swipes Program” tab) providing his or her name, account number, and the number of meals to transfer to students in need. The completed form goes to Campus Dining Services, and their staff will then let staff at Tiger Pantry know how many meals can be awarded to students each week. Volmert says Tiger Pantry will set up a table with forms for students who want to receive those meals, and that information will be sent back to Campus Dining Services.
“We will load the meals on the receiving student’s account, so it will be on the student’s ID card, and they can then go to any of the all-you-care-to-eat residential locations like Plaza 900, Rollins, the Pavilion at Dobbs, or The MARK on 5th Street,” Kiehn says. The student hands his ID to the cashier, like every other diner, the cashier takes off one meal; the student can dine with everyone else, and no one is the wiser that he received a transferred meal. Kiehn says the pilot program will limit students to transferring up to 10 meals at a time. “I’m not sure a student’s parent would be okay with them donating 150 meals that the parent is paying for.”
Nourie says the use of student IDs will eliminate any stigma that may be associated with students seeking help. “We’re preserving the anonymity of those who want the transferred meals. This could be a sensitive topic for a lot of people and not something they want to broadcast.”
Volmert says the success of the program will depend on whether students are willing to transfer meals. She encourages students to consider transferring throughout the semester because the meals expire at the end of each semester. Tiger Pantry is located on Rock Quarry Road south of Stadium Blvd. at University Surplus Property, and students can visit the pantry once a month for dry goods and every week for produce. Volmert says the meal plan will be considered produce, so students can come in each week to receive more transferred meals.
Will Work for Food
Kiehn says MU students also can receive reduced-priced meals at campus dining facilities if they are willing to work. “We hire 600–750 students, and the students who work with us get their meals for 66 cents before, during, or immediately after their shift,” she says. “If there are some students who are homeless or food insecure, there are other ways to get their meals, and that would be to come work with us. We’ll work with you on job skills as well as give you a meal for just 66 cents.”