SGA Members Hungry To Make Donations

Ellen Hoffman, Editor-in-Chief

Student Government Association representatives and campus ministry members are looking to find a way for students to donate extra meals, or “swipes,” from meal plans at the end of each semester.
Kristen Samuels, Community Outreach Coordinator, said this is a project she has been working on for eight or nine years – a project that is always shot down.

The idea started with wanting to donate leftover food at the end of the night or week to local food banks or homeless shelters, and Samuels says Metz, the university dining contractor, was approached.

“Every time that we’ve gone to Metz, they let us know there is no leftover food at the end of the day and that whatever is left over goes to the workers. So they consume everything that is left over,” Samuels said.

She, as well as SGA members, say they understand that food storage and safety precautions must be followed.

“I do know that there are expectations and safety concerns after a sandwich or whatever has been sitting out for three hours and that there are health and safety concerns. But, there is a Good Samaritan law, which covers businesses and organizations. Once it leaves their facility they are not liable for the food. So if someone gets sick from eating your food, they can’t come back at you and sue. Once it leaves the grounds, you’re not going to be held liable for this at all,” Samuels said.

The Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Act of 1996 encourages the donation of food and grocery products to non-profit organizations for distribution to individuals in need, according to Feeding America’s website.

This Act protects businesses and organizations from liability when they donate to non-profit organizations. The Act also protects donors from “civil and criminal liability should the product donated in good faith later cause harm to the recipient.”

Samuels says in the past, Metz and other food services officials have said they could be held liable.

“In the past they have used that as an excuse, but maybe they are also unaware of these laws and precautionary measures,” she said.

So Samuels and others came up with a new plan: Because meals

on meal plan cards do not transfer from semester to semester, they wanted to donate $1 per remaining meal to shelters in need.

That idea was nixed, too.

Catie Becker, SGA president, tried to advance this goal last semester, but she said she did not get very far. She had heard how Samuels had tried each year, and Becker thought it was a lost cause.

“Last year I wanted to start a program at Misericordia where students could use their leftover swipes at the end of the semester to donate either that money or whatever food they would have to homeless shelters, charities and food banks,” Becker said. “I didn’t get very far with it because everyone said they don’t do it, and it’s not allowed here. I never followed through or talked with Metz because there were so many roadblocks.”

Eric Nelson, Vice President of Finance and Administration, says meal swipes cannot be donated because the university needs to pay a set amount to Metz each year. Instead, he suggested students donate their flex dollars – the money that is added to their cards, separate from their meal plans

“We could do that with flex dollars, the dollars that actually get put on the account,” he said. “We couldn’t do that with Cougar Points or leftover swipes, and the reason for that is because of our contract with Metz. We pay a set rate to Metz regardless if a meal is eaten or not.”

Nelson said he is familiar with students donating flex dollars because it was something he had seen at a previous university where he worked. At that institution, students donated their flex dollars to local food banks. He said this also allowed commuters to participate because they don’t usually have meal plans.

The goal, according to Samuels, is to donate whatever the campus community can to local homeless shelters and food banks. She says she is considering raising the issue with the campus food committee.

“I know there is a lot of work to be done, but it’s just deciding where to start. It’s picking your battles and saying, ‘Where do we want to make an impact?’”

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