Proposal for campus service through food pantry

Opinion

Many students at Capital cannot afford the hefty Ultimate Plus meal plan and live too far from home to get food when needed.

First-years are required to have full meal plans, which offer unlimited swipes with an additional $200 in Capbucks that can be spent at local restaurants. However, this meal plan can cost up to $5,290 per year, putting a hefty hole in students’ pockets.

Many students cannot afford this luxury, having to opt instead for the 14 plus, 10 Plus, 7 plus, and the Freedom 50 plan, which is reserved for commuters. The 14 plus plan totals up to $4,130 dollars per year, with the 10 plus plan following close behind at $3,250, the 7 plus at $2,700, and the Freedom 50 plan at $1,250. Capital is definitely more expensive than most schools, and the meal plans reflect that.

In comparison to Ohio State University (OSU), Capital is outrageously expensive. Ohio State’s Unlimited Meal Plan is only $3,810 per year with an additional $100 dining dollars, and students can receive up to 35 percent discounts at restaurants.

Another option is OSU’s Scarlet 14 meal plan, which is $4,650 per year. This was tailored for students who only eat twice a day, or choose other eating options on the weekends, and the students are able to still receive $200 dining dollars to use at their leisure.

One junior at Capital, who preferred to be left anonymous, spoke out against these expenses.

“The meal plans at Capital are ridiculously expensive,” the student said. “It’s nice to look forward to a full meal freshly prepared once a day and not something out of the microwave, but if I could, I would change the requirement for the meal plan.”

They said that not only is it silly that it’s a requirement, it often goes to waste for many students.

“I tried to get the commuter plan due to cost, but they made me stick with the 7 Plus meal plan,” the student said. “I’m paying for college on my own and worked 52 hour weeks during the summer in order to be able to study and get homework done on time without the stress of a job during the school year.”

While the meal plans add a hefty amount of money to tuition, changing schools and going to one less expensive is an option that sometimes can weigh on the minds of students.

“There have been several occasions when I’ve thought about transferring schools due to financial burden,” the student said. “Any current job changed my situation and took away most of that stress, but my savings are being depleted.”

In addition to the high cost, having to settle for a lower meal plan can sometimes be embarrassing for this student.

“Many students are understanding of my low meal plan, but there are outliers who fail to empathize with me. These students are often without financial burden and therefore will never have to feel it’s effects,” the student said. “I have been judged for washing my dishes in the bathroom as well as for taking extra to-go boxes at the MDR. … I wish these students understood what it feels like to make sacrifices, even this small.”

When it comes to these issues with meal plans, a food pantry is a very valid solution.

“Students would definitely benefit from having a food pantry. Although there are few students who speak out about their financial situations, there are many who are struggling and refuse to ask for help,” the student said. “A food pantry would help to erase the stigma of asking for help and make it more acceptable.”

This anonymous student is not the only one on campus to think a food pantry would be a good idea, as others have weighed in on the issue as well.

“I think the idea of a student run food pantry could really do some good because it’ll help those who normally wouldn’t ask for help on their own,” Elle Folan, first-year nursing major, said.

For some, a food pantry would not be needed, but many know students who it would help immensely.

“I usually get to eat every day, but I have friends that aren’t able to,” Emerson Haven, music major, said. “I think it would be a great idea for Capital to open a food pantry because I know not everyone can afford the meal plan they need and they should still be able to care for themselves.”

Student Government members have decided to try and begin this project by starting a student garden that will hopefully lead to the making of a food pantry in the near future.

Schools such as Ohio State and Otterbein have extremely successful food pantries, and Capital would like to incorporate its own, not just for the students, but for the community at large as well. This would help to eliminate the percentage of food-insecure students at Capital and the surrounding neighborhood of Bexley, as well as provide a safe environment for students to find a haven in or host group meetings at.

“We want to start small and work our way up,” Community Engagement Intern Jack Spiller said. “We tried to open a food pantry last year, and we encountered some setbacks with trying to find a good location for it as well as finding sponsors, so we think that by starting a community garden and staying small to slowly build our way up, we’ll be more successful and then be able to take the proper steps to building a food pantry in the future.”

Students at Capital are now working together in order to make a community food garden accessible to students, so that no student pursuing education has to go through a night of studying feeling hungry, or being judged for not being as fortunate as others.

Student Government has reached out to several local community gardens, including Stoddart Garden, Bexley Community Garden, and the Franklin Park Conservatory in order to establish relationships and bring the prospects of a student-organized garden to fruition.

“You’ll want to build it in such a way so as to make sure that food insecure students will still be able to retain anonymity by going to a school food pantry or food garden,” the manager of Stoddart Garden, who refused to give a name, said.

She constructed her garden by allowing members of her community to have separate plots for their own enjoyment or food source, including one food pantry plot that regularly donates to local churches and other organizations.

“I would allow Capital students to have a plot here, so long as someone was here to take care of it and partake in group chores,” she said.

Food grown from plots could then be harvested and distributed or incorporated into recipes for those who need it.

Developing a food pantry, or even a community garden, can be a lengthy process. It would be a team effort, with clubs, sororities, fraternities, as well as on school staff volunteering to solve this community issue to alleviate the issue of hungry students.

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