A growing number of universities are getting creative with their use of leftover dining funds. Whether through on-campus food pantries, or more advanced meal donations to peers underpinned by the campus card system, unused meal funds are being used in far more efficient ways.
Pennsylvania's Bloomsburg University has long been using its leftover dining funds to stock the shelves of the local food pantry, and donates more than a ton of food and thousands of dollars in meal-plan funds each year. And a more unique use of the donations, according to the Altoona Mirror, is in the Bloomsburg Food Cupboard's bagging of breakfast, lunch and snacks for elementary students from under privileged families to take home each weekend.
Now in its fifteenth year, Bloomsburg students with meal plan “FLEX” funds left in their accounts at the end of the academic year can choose to make a donation, rather than simply spend the money down. The university allows the Flex dollars to roll over from fall to spring, but any leftover funds are forfeited with the close of the spring semester.
As is typically the case, many students will stock up on campus c-store goods like water, snacks or soda to drain any leftover funds, but an increasing number of Bloomsburg students are opting to donate their remaining Flex cash to the university's food-service partner Aramark. It's Aramark that then purchases food to fill “Panther Packs,” the bagged lunches and snacks for local elementary schoolers.
In the last two years alone, students Flex dollar donations have contributed more than $15,000 worth of donated meals.
Some 65% of students in Bloomsburg’s Memorial Elementary School are eligible for free or reduced-price lunches, so the Flex dollar donation program is certainly helping to provide some needed support to local community. Much of the donated meals are used to provide bagged lunches and snacks for children of eligible families on weekends.
The donation program has grown to feed somewhere between 350 to 400 households per week, and is providing 213 Panther Packs each week during the elementary school year.