Food justice on campus and beyond: How to get involved

By Hadley Polinsky

Most Puget Sound students don’t have to worry about where they will get their next meal, but there are plenty of people on campus and in the community that face this challenge. To address this issue, the campus community has created or participates in programs such as dining dollar donation, the Food Pantry, Food Salvage, Backpacks of Hope, and Hilltop Urban Gardens (HUG).

Dining Dollar Donation

When dining dollars (DD) run out, not all students have the option of buying more, which is where donating dining dollars comes in. Students with extra dining dollars can donate their dining dollars to students who need them, up to 30 DD a semester. “The DD project not only supports students by giving them an alternative resource fund to turn towards, but it also gives the campus community a way to participate,” Julia Lin, the 2017-18 Director of Student Interests for the Associated Students of the University of Puget Sound (ASUPS), said.

Questions have been raised about the need for and reasoning behind the donation cap, but the staff in charge of distributing the donations do not have control over the cap. “The cap was one of those pieces that was set by some conversation between DCS [Dining and Conference Services] and ASUPS,” Dave Wright, the University’s chaplain and Director for Spiritual Life and Civic Engagement, said. “The downside of Sarah Shives and I being on the distribution side of the process is that some of the design decisions were made elsewhere.”

This program is relatively new even though it has been in the works for years. “The DD program was an idea that was designed in 2015 and officially debuted in Spring 2017,” Lin said. “The program was created in order to support students who were in need of meal points as the semester comes to a close.”

Despite the newness of being able to donate dining dollars, students have been taking advantage of the program. “The generosity of students who give to this program is stunning, especially as we often hear questions about the donation cap and why they can’t give more,” Wright said.

To get involved: Visit asups.pugetsound.edu/services/dining-dollars-program to donate or request DD. Students can donate up to 30 DD each semester. When a request for DD is submitted, the student will meet with Dave Wright or Sarah Shives, who will figure out how to best help the student.

Student Diversity Center Food Pantry

Another resource for students who need support is the Food Pantry, located in the Student Diversity Center on 13th and Lawrence. “The food pantry is a place where students who are low on dining dollars or students who are food insecure — which means don’t have reliable food sources — can come and take whatever they need from what we have in the pantry,” first-year Karina Cherniske, Food Justice Volunteer Coordinator, said.

Students can donate food to the pantry in the box outside the Yellow House, or they can take what they need from the pantry. “Our role here in Student Affairs is to support students’ ability to achieve academically, and you can’t be at your best academically if you’re hungry,” Skylar Bihl, Assistant Director for Spiritual Life and Civic Engagement, said.

To get involved: Anyone can always drop off food donations in the bin outside the Yellow House. Those in need of food can take food from the pantry whenever necessary, but they ask that you log what you take. Contact Karina Cherniske or Skylar Bihl at foodjustice@pugetsound.edu with questions.

Food Salvage

To help the greater Tacoma community fight against hunger, students can volunteer with the Food Salvage program. Food Salvage volunteers take leftover food from the diner to serve at the Guadalupe House and the Tacoma Rescue Mission, a homeless shelter. Food that would not have been eaten is sent to those in the community who do not have enough food. “I’m really grateful that the diner is so helpful and creates a setup that is easy for us to go and makes sure that the food doesn’t go to waste,” Cherniske said. “It’s reducing food waste and super helpful to the places that it’s going to.”

Students can help pack up the food and drive the food to the community on Mondays and Fridays if they want to get involved with Food Salvage. “There’s all kinds of food. There’s soup, there’s a lot of meat, there’s the packaged pastries from Diversions, there’s veggie cups. It’s kind of fun to see every week what’s in food salvage,” Cherniske said.

To get involved: Volunteers are needed on Monday and Friday nights to pack up food donations and drive it to the recipients. Contact Karina Cherniske at foodjustice@pugetsound.edu with questions.

Backpacks of Hope

Another program that helps the community is Backpacks of Hope. “It’s a program of St. Leo’s Food Bank. Some of the youth leaders run it and they depend on volunteers to pack up the food and they deliver the food,” Cherniske said.

Backpacks are filled with food on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays at St. Leos. Thursdays and Fridays the backpacks are delivered to kids in Pierce county who are food insecure. “It’s really amazing to see just how many students are served through the program,” Cherniske said. “It’s fun to do and the people organizing it are really wonderful.”

To get involved: Due to a low number of volunteers this semester, Puget Sound has been less involved in Backpacks of Hope than historically. In the past, volunteers go to St. Leo’s for two hours on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays to pack up backpacks. Contact Karina Cherniske at foodjustice@pugetsound.edu with questions.

Hilltop Urban Garden (HUG)

HUG is another program in Tacoma that fights food injustice. HUG’s goal is to develop a system that develops food sovereignty, a process in which the people who produce the food are in charge of the food distribution, instead of large corporations. “HUG is a non-profit of the Hilltop community of Tacoma. It was started by Hilltop community member Dean Jackson, who wanted to create a community food-share, and it has since evolved into a fairly sizeable few plots where they grow veggies. They’re working toward being able to sell vegetables to local restaurants and get some sort of dividend back to the hilltop community,” sophomore Lucy Soderstrom, who joined HUG last year, said.

Soderstrom volunteers with HUG on Fridays and helps garden. “I think it’s been really important in helping students like me connect with the greater Tacoma community and learn more about Tacoma and how the Hilltop community is historically a little less affluent,” Soderstrom said.

Not only does HUG help the Hilltop community, but it fosters a community among the volunteers. “The relationships that I’ve formed has been really rewarding. I’ve gotten to know people from campus that go to HUG really well just through two hours every week of digging in the dirt,” Soderstrom said.

To get involved: Volunteers usually go on Saturday morning. Soderstrom also goes on Fridays. Contact Soderstrom or Dean Jackson at hilltopurbangardens@gmail.com with questions.

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