College Kids Changing the World

The school year ended and students left for the summer. Off to summer camps, special programs, vacations, or summer classes. The options were many. But how many followed the example set by students at a number of colleges and universities?

Stonehill College Initiative

Stonehill College, a private, co-educational Roman Catholic liberal arts college in Massachusetts, has about 2,400 full-time students. Not a large school, by any means. A college where students use order forms to purchase items over the year, and those things, like water bottles or snacks, are bought in bulk.

The Freshman Class Committee, realizing that the end of year was nearing and many students still had funds remaining on their accounts, had a last minute brainstorm. Let’s see if people are interested in donating some, or all, of their account balances to the local food pantry.

Forms were created to donate items, a couple of flyers were created, and two community-wide emails were sent. Students were given an option: take back the balance on your account; take what you want and donate the remainder; or donate the full amount. With this small college and last minute plan, students were able to donate a total of $1,300 to purchase non-perishable items for the food pantry…enough donations to last nearly a month for this small community.

Swipe Out Hunger

In another example, Rachel Sumekh, a student at UCLA in 2009, realized that some students did not have enough to eat while others were able to spend a lot of money for meal plans that would have balances remaining at year’s end. That’s when Sumekh and her friends encouraged others to have their remaining meals delivered as sandwiches to-go and donated those sandwiches to local homeless shelters.

While the university, at first, balked at dining room dollars being used for meals that would be given to others not on a plan, the university soon worked with Sumekh and Swipe Out Hunger was born. That one initiative has now led to chapters on 30 campuses across the country, turning donations from unused meal plans into more than $300,000 worth of meals.

People are realizing that these situations are not unique. In addition to area food pantries needing more donations to assist the growing numbers in the under-serviced populations, schools are also reporting that students, themselves, are sometimes in situations where a lack of funds is causing them to skip some meals. Students are not counted in government surveys, but a nationwide polling of 3,000 students found that almost half of college students experienced food insecurity over their last 30 days.

These initiatives by college-age students may not end food shortages or homelessness, or, will they? Asking simple questions of yourself: What do I see that’s possible? Can I make a difference? How can I help change the world?

If only we decide to try.

Dr W


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Photograph by Cristian Newman.

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