By Nick Erickson, Staff writer
With a preconceived notion that money is tight for most college students, food insecurity across campuses nationwide is an issue often overlooked. With this in mind, Murray State Dining Services began a new meal bank on campus.
Operation of the Meal Bank began on Jan. 17, the first day of classes. The Meal Bank is intended to assist students currently without a meal plan or dealing with matters that leave them without food security.
The Meal Bank grant will be once a semester, consisting of 14 Winslow meals. Once granted, meals will be put on the student’s Racer ID card, allowing them to swipe into Winslow as if they had a meal plan. This allows the students to keep their food situation completely private.
Dining Services plans to initiate, or “seed,” the Meal Bank’s launch with 1,000 meals. The first meals available to students will be generated from guest meals from the All-Access Plan that go unused.
Director of dining services, Paula Amols, said the idea for the Meal Bank came from a program at Columbia University.
“We learned about it while attending a professional conference last summer,” Amols said.
Amols said there have been several requests thus far, but most of those have been from students who didn’t fully understand whom the program is meant to assist.
“Many people who requested had a meal plan of some type,” Amols said, “but some of those who requested meals have received them.”
Amols believes the Meal Bank will be extremely beneficial to students in need.
“I do think food insecurity is a problem not just here, but on most, if not all, campuses,” Amols said. “It’s a problem for even those regarded as top tier or elite.”
David Likai Chen, freshman exchange student from Taiwan, said the Meal Bank is a good way to help those in need.
“This program is a good way to keep everyone at school well-fed,” Chen said. “The idea of giving back to the unfortunate should be upheld.”
John Gafford, sophomore from Stewart County, Tennessee, said he believes the Meal Bank is extremely positive for the community.
“It’s good to see people working toward helping others and the common good for everyone,” Gafford said. “This is going to keep from undermining those left behind in society.”
Depending on the demand, Dining Services is considering allowing students with unused meals from the two block plans at the end of Spring 2017 to donate them in Fall 2017. If permitted, a limit may be placed on how many meals a student is able to donate.
For students wishing to request a Meal Bank grant, there is a link button on the Dining Services home web page. This link redirects to a page where students may fill out basic information. Dining Services does not want to discourage anyone from applying by asking overly personal questions about their financial status, so the setup process is relatively objective.
With the aid of the Meal Bank, Murray State students in need have the promise of food security, without ever feeling self-conscious about themselves. While the stress of classes and social matters may persist, Murray State is on its way to making hunger one less thing to worry about.