Brandeis prides itself on social justice and a commitment to service, and few organizations exemplify these values more than the Waltham Group, which is composed of more than a dozen groups specializing in a variety of key issues. One such group is Hunger and Homelessness, an organization within the larger Waltham Group umbrella that works to help people in the Greater Boston Area who are struggling with homelessness, poverty and hunger. Hunger and Homelessness pursues this worthy goal with a range of annual or semi-annual programs, one of which is “Food for Thought.” The program allows Brandeis students to donate their guest meals at the beginning of the semester to help alleviate hunger. This board commends Hunger and Homelessness for its work on this program and others, but we urge Sodexo to extend donation opportunities to students on block meal plans as well.

As part of the “Food for Thought” program, Sodexo provides a pound of food to the Community Day Center of Waltham for every guest meal donated through Hunger and Homelessness, according to the group’s page on the Brandeis website. This food is spread out over the course of the semester and donated to the center on a weekly basis. 

Brandeis Dining Services offers students weekly meal plans of 19, 15, 12 or 10 meals per week, and each of these plans comes with five guest meals per semester. However, students on block plans, such as the 120 Block Plan and the 80 Block Plan, do not have guest meals and therefore cannot donate meals to Hunger and Homelessness’ “Food for Thought.” This board urges Sodexo to re-evaluate this and adjust its policies so that students on block plans may also contribute.

Meal swipes on the block plan can already function as guest meals in certain situations; for example, a student accompanied by another person may use two of the meals from their block plan at once and bring their guest into the dining hall as if they had guest meals.

This board acknowledges concerns that students on block plans could potentially donate tens of meals at a time, which may be infeasible for Sodexo and cause a disruption in their revenue. To that end, we suggest capping the number of meals that a student on a block plan may be able to donate at five per semester. This is consistent with the donation capabilities of students on weekly meal plans and would therefore not pose too much difficulty for Sodexo. 

The City of Boston’s 37th Annual Homeless Census reported that 6,327 individuals were living on the street, in emergency shelters, in transitional housing or in hotels/motels in 2017. While this is a slight decrease from 2016’s figure of 6,628 people, programs to help people struggling with homelessness, poverty and hunger remain vital and must continue to be supported. Hunger and Homelessness’ work should be commended, as should Sodexo’s cooperation and generosity thus far. At the same time, this board urges Sodexo to take a step further and allow students on block plans to donate a set number of meals to the cause as well.