Unused meal exchanges find new purpose

UTD Dining Services is spearheading an effort to allow students to donate up to two of their meal swipes per semester to other students who need it. Photo by Nadine Omeis | Mercury Staff.


Student Government and Dining Services teamed up to create a meal swipe donation program to help combat food insecurity on campus.

With close to 22 percent of college students facing very low levels of food security, according to the National Campaign Against Hunger and Homelessness, the initiative aims to allow students with unused meal swipes to donate them to others in need on campus.

Zehra Rizvi, the chair of SG’s Residential Affairs Committee, said the initiative to start the program began with students’ input to expand the offerings Dining Services provided for students. The program works by allowing students with unused guest passes and meal swipes to donate them to a bank of meals operated by the Dean of Students Office who will then allocate them to students for use in the dining hall.

“Food insecurity is unfortunately a really big problem for a lot of students and so, if we can even help one student feel more comfortable about their meals on campus, we can really consider this a success,” Rizvi said. 

Students on semester-long block meal plans will be allowed to donate up to two meals a semester to the bank. Students on the weekly meal plans are allowed to donate unused guest passes. In order to donate for next semester, students must initially sign up at one of the Dining Services and Student Government launch events at the SU and Dining Hall West from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., beginning on Dec. 3. Afterward, students will be able to make donations online for future semesters.

Director of Food and Retail Carrie Chutes-Charley said that existing student services such as the Comet Cupboard initially inspired the program. Chutes said while formulating the program, an emphasis was placed on maintaining recipient anonymity. The only point of contact students will need for the next semester is with the Dean of Students Office to request meal donations through phone or email.

“There’s an average of $1.4 trillion student loan debt. So, if you’re trying to get through the finances of your education, often times it’s the expendable items like food that get pushed aside,” Chutes said. “We want to get the word out that the program is available and nothing to be ashamed about. Our tagline is ‘We all have insecurities, but food shouldn’t be one of them.’”

Biochemistry sophomore Faisal Syed said the program would be helpful for himself and the overall student population. He said the program would allow him to focus on his grades rather than his expenses and alleviate some of the financial burden he would need to deal with otherwise.

“It’s unbelievable how little we think about where basic things like food will come from unless we actually don’t have any or can’t afford it,” Syed said. “This program would relieve some of the major stress I have in regards to my expenses and overall well-being. It’ll really give me something to remember UTD for.”


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