Students start effort to donate unused meal swipes

An event Friday will allow students to purchase snack packs with their unused meal swipes and donate them to a local food bank.

Jill and Frank Fertitta Hall at USC.

USC students are planning an initiative to use extra student meal swipes to donate snack variety packs to local food banks across the South Los Angeles area.

An Instagram post encouraged students to use their meal swipes at Fertitta Cafe from 12-3 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 11 and bring purchased snacks to a tent outside of Popovich Hall. The account’s hope is to “give back to the community that welcomed us,” according to its Instagram bio.

So far, the account has gained over 100 followers and over 600 likes on its first post detailing the plan to give back.

Yoav Gillath, a freshman studying political economy, launched the account with the hopes of giving students with extra meal swipes a way of helping out the community rather than letting the swipes go to waste. Inspired by The University of Kansas, located in his hometown of Lawrence, Kansas, Gillath wanted to start a similar initiative at USC to implement a program that would donate extra meals to food banks in the Los Angeles area.

“I looked around, and I searched for a way to donate these meal swipes,” Gillath said. “I settled on snack packs because we needed foods that were nonperishable to make distribution easier.”

According to Gillath, the group will be donating the snack packs to the Los Angeles Catholic Worker (LACW) immediately after the drive ends Friday.

The LACW was founded in 1970 with a community house in Boyle Heights and a soup kitchen and service center on Skid Row, according to its website. The organization operates a free soup kitchen called “the Hippie Kitchen” that serves over 3,000 hot meals a week. Additionally, its service center provides dental care, foot care, toiletries, shopping carts and mail service for homeless Los Angeles residents.

Shon Hiatt, an associate professor of management and organization, said he interacts with and volunteers regularly in soup kitchens throughout Los Angeles. He commended the student effort to donate to LACW.

“[The LACW] has the capability for distribution, which USC would never have,” Hiatt said. “I think a lot of it would go to waste unless you partner with somebody. That’s the best thing, to partner with an NGO that knows and is close to the community with needs.”

Gillath anticipates high student participation Friday based on the level of interest he has seen on the Instagram account. Popovich Café and Law Café sell snack packs similar to those at Fertitta Café and will become two options for students to turn to if Fertitta Café runs out, he said.

Sarah Kim, a sophomore, discovered the account when a friend shared it on her Instagram story. She thinks that this plan is a great way to give back to the community.

“It’s a good way to make sure that my own meal plan won’t go to waste,” Kim said. “It’s a really nice and sustainable way to keep it going.”

If this program is a success, Gillath hopes that there will be more chances for USC students to give back to the community.

“This is hopefully a program that we can turn into more of a long-term thing instead of a single event,” Gillath said. “I’d love to have people come on board.”