On March 2, 3,317 students at the University of Connecticut donated flex passes during dinner for the Give a Meal event.
UConn Dining Services partnered with the University’s Community Outreach program to generate donations for several local organizations, including the Mansfield Food Pantry, the No Freeze Shelter in Willimantic, the Covenant Soup Kitchen in Willimantic and Community Outreach’s expenses for its alternative spring break trips.
“I walked into the dining hall and as the staff member was swiping me in, he asked if I wanted to donate another swipe to Community Outreach,” Natalie Baliker, a second-semester actuarial science major said, “I didn’t really know what he was talking about, but I said sure since I have so many flex passes I will probably never use.”
Adrienne Ngyuen, a second-semester biology major said that she chose to donate because she would rather have her flex pass help someone else than go unused.
“I donated because I have so many flex passes that I don’t end up using, I’d rather donate them than have them go to waste,” Ngyuen said, “I’d donate again if they had a donating day again.”
While the number of swipes donated was a .5 percent decrease in donated swipes compared to last spring, it is a 14 percent increase since the spring of 2015. In addition 1,960 more swipes were donated this year than in the fall of 2016, Dennis Pierce, the director of UConn Dining Services said.
Pierce said that the number of donations generated this semester is around the average amount that they tend to receive.
Ngyuen said that she would have donated more than one swipe if she could have.
“When I donated last semester I asked if I could donate more than once and (the person who was swiping me in) just said that they can’t have me donate more than once,” Ngyuen said.
Pierce said that Dining Services only has donations available for a single meal because they are limited to how much they can donate.
“We have to limit what we can donate because it’s coming from our (Dining Services) revenue,” Pierce said.
The amount donated is determined based on the raw food cost for a meal, which equates to approximately $2.50 per swipe.
“We use the swipe to determine how much we are going to donate and we use what we call the raw food cost,” Pierce said, “We still prepare meals, people still come and eat so what we donate is the raw food cost.”
“Years ago, students had to make that payment themselves,” Pierce said “They were donating their time to go on this non-traditional trip and part of the out-of-pocket expense for the student was to pay that bus transportation, and so our donation to community outreach offsets the cost of the buses.”
Dining Services has been running the Give a Meal program since 1987 and Community Outreach has been involved since 2012.
“It’s got a history,” Pierce said, “It’s supporting the community.”