Throughout Reading Week and Finals Week, students can donate their leftover meal plan points to help feed the hungry through “Points for a Purpose.” The student group uses point donations from students to raise money to provide food for the homeless and homebound in Evanston and the Chicago area. Read more about how Weinberg sophomore Dean Meisel and McCormick sophomore Bryan Berger started the organization and how to get involved.
My friend Rachel had just finished her last final of freshman year and was heading home early for summer break. Rachel had gone through the quarter without resorting to her meal plan, so as she headed home, she was leaving behind not only a year of memories and friends, but also $400 worth of equivalency meals and meal points. Determined to not completely waste this money, she handed me her WildCARD and suddenly I had my ticket to a freezer full of Ben & Jerry’s. But after a few days of Norris sushi, Frontera Fresco and way too much ice cream, my consciousness started to overcome my stomach.
I approached Bryan Berger, who agreed that there must be a better way to deal with the excessive amount of unused – or misused—meal points at the end of each quarter. Together we thought of the idea to connect the inevitable waste of the Northwestern meal plan with the food insecurity of the Evanston area. What if students had the ability to donate their leftover meal points to people who could use it more effectively?
Our idea’s effectiveness lies in its simplicity. To help feed the hungry, all a student needs to do is ask the cashier at any C-Store to donate ‘X’ amount of points to Points for a Purpose. The WildCARD is swiped, and the food is later assembled and delivered. Bryan and I spent the summer dreaming of the possibilities.
Fast forwarding to fall quarter of this year, Bryan and I e-mailed the entire list of contacts on the nuCuisine website. We were pleasantly surprised by their receptiveness to the idea, and a couple meetings later, Points for a Purpose was born.
Our quarterly drives run during Reading Week and Finals Week, and since we did not officially begin until Reading Week during Fall quarter, we had low expectations as to the success of our first drive. However, our friends helped us spread the word and the campus responded with enthusiasm. Only 11 days after our kickoff, the Northwestern community came together, sacrificed their finals week Cheetos binges and donated $1,246 to our beneficiary—Campus Kitchens at Northwestern University.
While Campus Kitchens at Northwestern provides an amazing service to the community—taking leftover food from dining halls and preparing it for many of its deserving clients including Evanston individuals, the YWCA, the Salvation Army and Connections for the Homeless—they often lack the funds to package anything other than peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for their clients. With the help of the Northwestern community, they are now able to provide more balanced meals for homebound seniors, homeless people and other Evanstonians who depend on these services.
Since then, Bryan and I have been working passionately with Sodexo, Campus Kitchens and other groups on campus to attack food insecurity as effectively as we can. In addition, we have officially become a chapter of Swipes for the Homeless, a non-profit based in California with a similar mission. We added eight more students to our team and are looking for ways to not only expand our efforts at Northwestern, but to other campuses as well.
Points for a Purpose has not only contributed over $2,500—the equivalent of 1,000 meals—to fighting food insecurity in the Chicagoland area, but it has united the Northwestern campus and made many students aware of the harsh realities that our neighbors face on a daily basis.
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