Carleton students collect food for Northfield pantry

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A food drive last Friday on the Carleton College campus raised enough money to buy 65 pounds of fruit juice, milk, yogurt and other foods that were donated to the food shelf at the Community Action Center (CAC) in Northfield.


Organized by Carleton students Tyler BoddySpargo and Dia Davis, the donations were made by students redeeming unused “dining dollars” from meal packages they’d purchased from the college at the beginning of the fall term.


Typically at the end of term, students spend unused dining dollars on juice or snacks they don’t need or really want, a practice that struck Davis and BoddySpargo as wasteful, especially in light of the food needs of many Northfield residents during a recession.


Through mass emails and posters hung around campus, BoddySpargo and Davis urged students to come to the Sayles-Hill student snack bar and cafeteria on Friday morning and spend their extra dining dollars on food that would be donated to the CAC food pantry.


Perishable items


The student organizers worked with with the Ricardo Lopez, director of the on-campus food service company, Bon Apetit, to work out details for the food drive.


They prepared a list of the snack bar’s donate-able items, including a price list for the items for the students’ reference. The snack bar sells mainly perishable items, of which eight were chosen as items suitable for donating: fruit juice, Naked Juice, V8 juice, Gatorade, water, milk, Vitamin Water and yogurt.


Davis arrived at Sayles early Friday morning to train the snack bar staff for the event. Then, between 10 a.m. and 12 p.m., she stood behind the cash register, recording purchases that students designated as donations.


After two hours, BoddySpargo and Davis loaded $200 worth of donated items into crates and drove them to the CAC food shelf.


“The food shelf people were very excited!” Davis said.


BoddySpargo and Davis also collected about 100 petition signatures by students pledging to expand their food-giving efforts.


Dining cards


As a volunteer at the CAC’s Thursday Table, a weekly free family meal for Northfield residents, Davis remembered hearing people say that they liked eating at Carleton because Bon Apetit provided prepared meals.


From those conversations and her knowledge of Carleton’s food service system, she began to wonder whether Carleton could help out the CAC in some way.


Later, she met BoddySpargo, who said he was always frustrated by his surplus dining dollars at the end of the term. He found himself buying food simply to zero out his dining card balance and wished there were a way to give his dollars – or food purchased with those dollars – to people who really needed the food.


Together, Davis and BoddySpargo arrived at the same ephiphany: why not allow Carleton students to donate unused dining dollars to the CAC at the end of each term?


With Friday’s successful food drive behind them, BoddySpargo and Davis hope to initiate an opt-in or opt-out program allowing students to sign a waiver releasing any remaining dining dollars for donation.


Simple plan


They are currently meeting with representatives from Bon Appetit, Carleton and the CAC, and are not yet certain of the program’s final form. But they’re confident that a simple and straightforward plan should win strong backing.


“Once they are aware that an option exists like that, they’ll take advantage of it,” Bodyspargo said of students’ support.  “With the general simplicity of the plan, it just makes sense.”


Davis and BoddySpargo said they were impressed by the support they have received from Bon Appetit and the CAC, and from the enthusiastic student response.


BoddySpargo said he was especially amazed at the success of Friday’s food drive, which took place during Carleton’s exam period when students are either busy studying or still sleeping.


“Friday went really well, and we are really excited about what we can do next term,” Davis added.


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