The University of Houston’s Auxiliary Services has partnered with the Urban Experience Program, an organization on campus designed to aid students in need, and the Student Government Association to provide free meals to food insecure students.
Through this program, meal plan holders with guest passes can donate some of them to students in need, and it’s incredibly admirable. While it’s a noble idea, however, it’s held back by strange roadblocks, preventing the service from reaching its full potential.
Most notably, students are incredibly limited in the number of passes they are allowed to donate. Platinum meal plan holders are only allowed to donate five of their 30 passes, gold holders are allowed three of their 10 and silver holders may only give one of their five. No other meal plans receive any day passes.
Additionally, students are only given a week to donate their passes. Perhaps there is a logistical or bureaucratic reason behind this, but such a limitation seems unnecessary to an outsider.
While Auxiliary Services does send out an email to all meal plan holders once the donation window opens in an effort to get the word out, one can’t imagine it would hurt to leave the donation window open for a greater period of time.
The day pass program does work as is, though. Students donated a total of 236 meal passes in the Spring 2019 semester, which is nothing to scoff at. While data regarding supply and demand of these donated passes are scant, the ones that were donated were probably invaluable to those who needed them.
UH clearly cares about feeding the hungry. In fact, it won an award for it a few years ago.
Additionally, Auxiliary Services has donated a substantial number of guest passes itself, donating 200 every spring and fall since the Fall 2017 semester, which is great, and it offers meal plan scholarships to a few students every year. Taking all of this into consideration should make one ask why there are such limitations on the donation program.
Of course, the answer to this question is obvious to most: money. Giving out free food is undoubtedly unattractive to the University from a financial standpoint. But the solution to this issue is, once again, obvious to most.
All people should be allowed to donate money in order to gift guest passes to food insecure students in a modern caffè sospeso, or “suspended coffee,” style of system. At approximately $10 per pass, non-meal plan holders would be able to pay in advance for any student who needs the support. Casting a wider net in this way would only open the door for more help for those who need it.
Regardless of whether or not the service is expanded in the future, you should donate to it if you’re able to. This semester’s donation window has closed, but you’ll be able to donate for the spring semester in January. Please consider it because, as you probably know, it’s nigh impossible to overstate the importance of food, and studies have shown correlations between food insecurity and a lower GPA.
If you feel you would benefit from this system, it’s offered through the Urban Experience Program. Additionally, as a proper student organization, the benefits of joining it extend beyond food security. Give it a chance, if you feel inclined.
Digressions aside, hopefully the appropriate parties consider expanding this program. It truly is a noble and charitable cause, worthy of even more attention and care than it already receives. Any student who is willing to put their all into their studies shouldn’t be held back by their socioeconomic status, and this system is perfect for preventing that.
Opinion writer Kyle Dishongh is a finance junior and can be reached at [email protected]