OP-EDS

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January 31, 2003

Giving Tree branches out

It is difficult to conceive of a situation in which the Bag Lunch program introduced by the Giving Tree RSO would not be a commendable one. Their program enables U of C students to donate unused meal points towards meals for a local soup kitchen. Its purpose is obviously laudable. Recently, the Giving Tree has pushed for the inclusion of non-perishable foods in their program, to save dining hall staff the work of preparing bag lunches and to simplify the entire process, removing the problem of keeping bag lunches edible. The immediate assumption is that the bureaucratic idiosyncrasies of the dining system have struck down a reasonable swipe towards streamlining the donation plan. The question is not as straightforward as it might appear.

Housing director Katie Callow-Wright correctly admonishes those seeking an instant solution, owing to the reality that the dining hall system is not designed in the interest of supplying food to those not in the dining hall. Any plan to redirect "unused" dining hall materiel will have to address that obstacle. Moreover, many students believe that the costs of their meal plan are convertible directly to foodstuffs. Their beliefs are mistaken, or at least not one hundred percent correct. The Housing Office has made it clear that meal plan money affords access to a system that includes not only food but also the salaries of workers, cleaning and preparation costs, and the convenience of choice for diners. It remains debatable whether or not the understood price of a meal, something in the vicinity of $20, is a fair one. Be that as it may, one $20 meal voucher cannot be translated into $20 worth of food for the homeless. But this doesn't mean that no food should go to the homeless.

Whatever the logistics of the problem may be, the student body has demonstrated an interest in donating its spare food to soup kitchens. It stands to reason, then, that the Housing Office and the students who patronize it should collaborate to form some sort of dedicated food-distribution program for the homeless. The desire for such a program is obvious, and the means, while slightly entangled at present, are at hand. All that remains is an effort appropriate to both.