|Representatives from the University administration, SGA, Chartwells and St. Louis Area Foodbank were on hand for the check presentation. Photo by Danielle Lacey|
This week is Hunger Awareness Week, and Saint Louis University students have done more than just educate others on the issues surrounding food insecurity. They've helped plant the seeds to fight hunger in the St. Louis area well into the future.
On Wednesday, the Student Government Association, in partnership with Chartwells, presented the St. Louis Area Foodbank with a $13,000 check. The funds, donated as part of an innovative program called Flex-to-Feed, will provide the food bank with 300,000 pounds of food.
The Flex-to-Feed program, created by members of the SGA, allows for 10 percent of all unused "Flex Dollars" from student meal plans at the end of each fiscal year to be donated.
"The Great Recession prompted many families to seek assistance in food," said Vidur Sharma, president of the Student Government Association. "Area food banks have reported an increase in the utilization of their services and the trend does not seem to be slowing."
During the ceremony, University Interim President William R. Kauffman, J.D., commended the students for their efforts to alleviate hunger in the St. Louis community.
"Today we celebrate our students and student leaders who found a way to take a few dollars and help members of the larger community gain something we all take for granted," Kauffman said.
Currently, one in four St. Louis residents receives benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or as it's more commonly known, "food stamps." However, the federal program faces benefit cuts in the coming months.
Sharma explained how students Tarek Adam and Robert Adams presented the idea of helping local residents fight hunger to then-SGA President Matt Ryan. SGA President-emeritus Blake Exline worked with former Chartwells Regional District Manager Paul Taylor to implement the program last fall.
"The Flex-to-Feed partnership with Chartwells demonstrates the commitment the Student Government Association has towards Saint Louis University's mission of outreach and service," he said. "Flex-to-Feed is a testament to the dedication of students towards serving others."
And that commitment hasn't ended with this check. Representatives from the St. Louis Area Foodbank announced at the event that they had plans to present the SGA initiative to other colleges and universities and to hopefully create similar programs.