By: Gabriel Donahue, deputy news editor
Towson University’s division of Student Affairs will reinstate the meal swipe donation program and increase FoodShare accessibility to address the increased rates of students facing food insecurity.
There has been a 141% increase in the utilization of the FoodShare from fall 2021 to spring 2022 and a 146.67% total increase in usage since its inception in 2016, according to Associate Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Anthony Skevakis.
In response, Student Affairs announced five initiatives during a panel discussion on Nov. 14. Additionally, ending hunger on campus is one of the sustainability goals listed in the University’s 2020 Campus Master Plan.
While the rollout for each initiative varies, Skevakis said some, including the meal swipe donation program, will become available during the spring 2023 semester.
The donation program stems from Towson’s weekly meal plans utilizing a “use or lose” system. Each week, students must use their weekly swipes before each Friday morning when their balance resets.
The meal swipe donation program allows those with extra swipes to donate their remaining balance to students who have run out or don’t have enough. Students who express need will have donated meals added to their OneCard balance, Skevakis said.
In addition to the swipe donations, the FoodShare is becoming a Basic Needs Hub. He said that the Hub would provide clothing and a wider range of groceries, including produce and frozen foods, to offer cooking lessons for easy meals.
Faith Borras, a recent Towson graduate who manages the FoodShare, said the program provides approximately 1,250 pounds of food monthly.
“[Food insecurity] affects us on a bigger level than we think it is affecting us ’cause we’re thinking purely hunger,” Borras told panel attendees. “But when you look at how students are being affected in their social relationships or in their academics, Towson has a pretty big problem to address with food insecurity.”
She said the FoodShare is also working with the Office of Sustainability to develop an interactive food map set to launch in fall 2023, which will identify food assistance resources within five miles of Towson’s main and Towson University in Northeastern Maryland campuses.
The FoodShare received a Hunger-Free Campus grant from the Maryland Higher Education Commission, which will fund the development of the map. Borras said in an email that the FoodShare is paying the Center for Geographic Information Sciences at TU to create the map.
The grant requires a student hunger survey to be conducted and submitted to the Commission. A Towson spokesperson said the survey would happen in the next few months since the grant was only recently awarded.
According to the grant’s website, the Commission will award $150,000 in the fiscal year 2023 to qualifying campuses within the state. To qualify, a university must be designated as a hunger-free campus.
Additionally, Borras said that students applying for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits could request an appointment for help from the Division of Student Affairs via email or by calling the office. There will soon be video content to guide Towson students through the application process.
The 2022 Maryland County Hunger Profiles reports that there are 828,223 average Maryland residents who receive SNAP benefits every month. According to the same report, out of 6,037,624 Maryland residents, 9% live below the poverty line.
Borras said at the panel that the FoodShare hopes to expand curbside pickup and have small pantry boxes available throughout campus to increase visibility.