Skip a Meal to help fight against hunger

Students can skip a meal on Nov. 22 to help Meal Exchange buy food for local charities.
Students can skip a meal on Nov. 22 to help Meal Exchange buy food for local charities.
Jon Wilinofsky

For one Commerce 351 Leadership team, skipping a meal is about more than just avoiding calories and trans fats.

Katie Elder, Comm ’06, and her four teammates have created a class project aimed at encouraging students to tackle hunger within the community.

“We are hoping to promote awareness of hunger issues and also [raise] money to help hungry people in the Kingston community,” she said.

To accomplish this goal, the group has teamed up with Meal Exchange, a not-for-profit registered charity based in Toronto.

The team is encouraging students with a campus meal plan to skip a meal so the group can give the money to Meal Exchange, which will purchase food at wholesale prices to give back to charities such as food banks and women’s shelters in the Kingston community.

The event will be held over lunch hour on Nov. 22.

“Meal Exchange deals with food in your local community,” said team member Kyle Brohman, ArtSci ’06. “The money raised won’t go anywhere outside of the local community.” Brohman said every dollar raised through Meal Exchange is worth four to six times more because of the organization’s ability to buy food at wholesale prices.

“So basically, [I could] donate $10 to a Kingston food bank here in town,” he said. “[But] if I donated that to Meal Exchange, it could turn into $40 to $60 with their buying power.”

Elder said she has been on Meal Exchange’s board of directors for the past two years.

“The tagline of the organization is ‘Hunger Problem. Student Solution,’” she said. “The goal is to mobilize students to find solutions to hunger in the communities they’re living in.”

She said Meal Exchange programs include Skip a Meal, Trick or Eat and Clear the Shelves!

Clear the Shelves! is an initiative where students donate canned goods that are left in their cupboards at the end of the semester.

Trick or Eat is an event where students canvass neighbourhoods to collect canned and non-perishable foods on Halloween.

Students Against Poverty, an AMS committee, organized a similar event this year on campus, though not affiliated with Meal Exchange.

Jennifer Holub, social issues commissioner, said the event collected a lot of food.

“I would estimate over 4,000 items of non-perishables were collected,” she said.

Meal Exchange was started in 1993 by Rahul Raj, a student at Wilfrid Laurier University. After his graduation in 1997, he registered Meal Exchange as a charity and began to work on a national level. Currently, 50 Canadian universities and colleges participate in the organization’s programs.

Thirty-five of those universities also have chapters.

Team member Shariq Ashraf, a third-year exchange student from Singapore, said students with meal plans must sign up to voluntarily skip their meal.

“Students will have signed up beforehand, declaring that on this day they are skipping a meal and they basically just don’t have to turn up at the cafeteria at that day for lunch,” he said.

A cafeteria may close for that one meal in the instance that a very large number of people sign up, Ashraf said.

Elder said the decision on whether to close the cafeteria will be up to Food Services.

“If we go to them and say we have 800 people signed up, at that point they will decide whether they are going to shut down [a cafeteria],” she said.

Bruce Griffiths, director of residence and hospitality services, said a percentage of savings from food and general expenses during the Skip a Meal event will be given to Meal Exchange. The remainder goes to operating the costs of the dining hall.

Griffiths said he thought closing a dining hall was unlikely.

COMM 351 Professor John Phelan said there are 21 teams in two sections that are currently engaging in projects to make changes to the community. He said the projects encourage interaction within groups.

“There is a level of synergy that comes through in team performance that you don’t get in group work or individual work,’ he said.

Elder said the goal of the course project is twofold.

“It’s so that we have some kind of output, improving something or changing something,” she said. “The other goal is that we are supposed to achieve high-performance team status so that we all work together efficiently and effectively.”

Past successful projects included adding banisters to ramps in the JDUC, Elder said.

“There have been tons of different leadership change projects that have made differences,” she said.

Brohman said the team is working with Main Campus Residents’ Council (MCRC) to achieve their goal.

“The decision we came up with is [that] MCRC, Meal Exchange and our team will collaborate to decide which organizations to focus on,” Brohman said.

Elder said the team is working on a succession plan to make sure Skip a Meal continues in the future. She said the last time Meal Exchange ran Skip a Meal on campus was in 2002 and the event raised $2,600.

Brohman said he hopes the team can raise more money this year by better publicizing the event.

“If we put in the effort to get out there and really approach [students] on a one on one basis, we are going to have a much better chance to raise a higher number of funds,” he said.

He said the team is working with Meal Exchange to design a website for online donations and is working to get faculty to also donate what they might spend on lunch that day.

The deadline to sign up for Skip a Meal is Friday, Nov. 18 at 2 p.m.. Next week, the team will be visiting classes from Monday to Wednesday. On Thursday and Friday, there will be booths set up in cafeterias for other students to sign up.

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