December 18, 2013
Vol: 20 No: 51

News

Seattle University students donate meal-plan money to feed homeless people

by: Rosette Royale , Assistant Editor

From left, JayBee Ragudo of San Jose, Calif., Madison Engel of Woodinville, Rose Lasalle-Klein of Alameda, Calif., and Arthur Moss-Hawkins of Boston eat at Hawk’s Nest Bistro and Cherry St., Market, which is on the second floor of the Student Center.

Photos by Daniel Bassett

Nathan Palmrose of Portland pays for a meal with a meal card.

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When a Seattle University (SU) freshman failed in her attempt to feed one hungry person, she realized she had the means to feed many more. The realization has led a handful of students to contribute $1,500 to feed dozens of homeless people.

Alita Campbell was walking back to her SU dorm one day this fall when she met a woman on the sidewalk. Campbell said the woman, who looked as if she’d had a tracheostomy (a surgical procedure to create an opening through the neck into the trachea or windpipe), asked for money to buy something to eat. Campbell wanted to help, but didn’t have her wallet, so she continued on to her dorm.

In her room, Campbell remembered a conversation she’d had earlier that day. She’d told friends she wouldn’t spend the entire value of her meal plan before the quarter ended on December 13. She wondered what to do with the leftover money. Then, she said, “It kind of hit me.”

Campbell decided to buy the woman a meal with some of her remaining meal-plan funds. But when she went outside to look for the woman, she was gone.

Campbell, a major in the Humanities for Leadership program, still wanted to put the money to use. After consulting with friends and a professor, Campbell devised a plan: Return the unused meal-plan money to the university’s caterer, Bon Appetit, and have the food service make sandwiches for homeless people.

She created a Facebook page to draw in other students.

“I have a lot of friends with money they won’t use,” Campbell said.

By the end of the winter quarter, Campbell and three others had returned almost $1,500 to Bon Appetit, enough to pay for 200 sandwiches. Campbell said she delivered 100 of them to Tent City 4, currently hosted by Mary, Queen of Peace Catholic Church in Sammamish. Another 100 sandwiches went to a meal program in Seattle.

The story was first reported by SU’s student newspaper, The Spectator.

A representative for SU’s office of Housing & Residence Life said that all freshmen and sophomores living on campus are required to purchase a meal plan ranging in value from $1,330 per quarter to $2,300 per quarter.

If a student has $100 or less remaining on a meal plan at the end of a quarter, the funds are rolled over to the next quarter. If a student has more, $100 will roll over and the rest will be lost.

Christy Piscitelli, assistant catering manager at Bon Appetit, said the catering service advertises ways for students to spend unused meal-plan money. The caterer informs students the money can be used to donate food to local nonprofits, but Piscitelli said students also have the option to recycle funds to cover food costs for dorm parties.

Piscitelli said she believes Campbell’s campaign has potential.

“It could be a really generous snowball effect for the future,” she said.

That’s just what Campbell hopes will happen. She said even though a handful of students helped this quarter, she hopes more will donate unused meal-plan funds next year. Next quarter, she said, she wants to raise awareness among SU students to show where their meal-plan dollars are going versus where they can go.

Campbell said the experience caused her to examine her motivations. At first, she wondered if she began the effort out of guilt because she couldn’t help the woman on the street. After some self-examination, she said she understood her desire to help others was genuine and ignited her campaign. Campbell believes that with greater outreach in 2014, more SU students might join her.

“It’s blossoming,” she said.

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