Senate Assures Free Fall Break Meals for Students

Eliza Guinn

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Though the funding previously reserved for providing free meals to students during school breaks has been cut this semester, the program will go ahead as planned by the Office of Community and Government Relations, Student Senate and various Oberlin faith communities.

Last March, the nascent program provided free meals to students who stayed on campus for spring break, some of whom may not have been able to afford to buy food for a week while Campus Dining Services was closed.

The current funding plan is to take money from the Student Support Initiative Fund and then pay back into it from other sources later on. The Student Support Initiatives Fund was created to provide support services for students needing additional assistance once they are on campus.

“The only problem with funding at this point is that it’s coming from a source that is not replenishable, in that it is not endowed,” said College fifth-year and Student Senator Megs Bautista. “There is no money going in unless people donate to it, and so that source is not meant to sustain programs like this over the long term.”

There is hope in the future to institutionalize this budget, although there is not yet a permanent source to fund this program.

About 200 people took advantage of the meals during last spring break’s pilot program, and Student Senate expects a similar number this year. They have sent out a survey to assess interest in the meals and expect a turnout of anywhere from 100 to 170 students, according to College sophomore and Student Senator Anjali Kolachalam.

First Church in Oberlin Pastor David Hill, who has been involved with this program since it began last semester, said that several faith communities might be participating — some by expanding their pre-existing scheduled meals. Organizers of Community Meals, which are held at Christ Episcopal Church, will provide a dinner, and First Church in Oberlin will also expand its Wednesday night supper to accommodate extra students. The faith communities will likely provide a lunch or dinner for every weekday of break.

In addition to the weekday meals, Assistant to the President for Community and Government Relations Tita Reed and Dean of Students Eric Estes will host a dinner on the second weekend at Estes’ house. According to Bautista, he will be serving chili dogs.

“I still feel quite confident that for the vast majority of days during that recess there will be at least one meal for free that students can go to,” Hill said.

But the fact that some of the churches are so far from campus may pose an accessibility issue. Bautista is looking for people available over break to volunteer their vehicles and provide a shuttle service for students who may not be able to get to the different locations otherwise.

Hill also said that this provided a good place for the College and town community to meet and interact in ways that they normally would not.

“I saw what happened at the meals,” Hill said. “There were great conversations that were going on, either between students and non-students, with students saying, ‘Wow, I don’t get to have these conversations on campus. This is a different type of conversation: I’m really enjoying this,’ but also students, because they eat in separate dining halls, were getting to eat with people they don’t normally eat with. So they were meeting people they weren’t otherwise meeting at times because it was a common dining hall.”

Leo Braido, the owner and manager of IGA, is also participating. Hill added that this year, Braido went a step further by drawing up an actual meal plan that fits within the confines of the budget.

Still, people are questioning whether food should be provided for students staying on campus for break.

“Maybe people need to be reminded why this is important,” Hill said. “I went to a Student Senate meeting when this was being talked about. I mean, there are students who live far away … You have students who can’t afford to go home, and you have students who just don’t want to go home. To me, it doesn’t matter what the resources are. If we can help out in the faith community, that’s a great thing.”

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