SGA initates plan to turn ‘Flex’ into donations

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What began as a student’s idea has turned into a program that could feed thousands of impoverished people living in the St. Louis community.

The new Flex to Feed program on campus is a program designed to donate the leftover flex ‘dollars’ students have not spent at the end of the semester and donate it to the St. Louis Food Bank.

For every dollar that the St. Louis Food Bank receives, they are able to create four meals.

The project began last semester when Tarek Adam, a Saint Louis University medical student, spoke with some friends about creating a program that could utilize the leftover flex dollars at the end of the year to help those in need.

“I’ve always had an interest in serving those in need,” Adam said.

Adam said that he felt this program was a good idea in light of the University’s Jesuit mission.

Adam met with Matt Ryan, last year’s Student Government Association President, to discuss the idea and see how they could put it into action.

“Ryan was very open to the idea and without him, I’m not sure if we could have gotten to this point,” Adam said.

Former President Ryan said he thought it would be a good project to get going.

“When Tarek first presented the idea, I knew that this was something we needed to take seriously and I thought it was a great opportunity to help our community,” Ryan said. “The Flex-to-Feed program was significant for two reasons. One, it got a lot of student engagement on the issue. Many students felt passionate about this and expressed that to SGA. And two, it embodies why we are here. To help others and serve for the greater glory of God.”

Ryan also encouraged Adam to get student support.

Adam made a petition to SGA to start the program.

The petition was sent out in an SGA email and received approximately 600 student signatures.

With the support of the students, Adam and Ryan then took the petition to Paul Taylor, director of Billiken Dining Services, and the two parties began talks to get the Flex-to-Feed plan under way.

Over the past summer before the start of the 2012-2013 school year, Adam and Taylor met with current SGA president, Blake Exline, to discuss details of the program.

Exline said he liked the idea because it gives students another and a different chance to participate in service for the surrounding St. Louis area.

“I think students will be excited about the possibility of helping out our community,” Exline said. “We live in an impoverished area, where people do go hungry.”

The current status of the project is that Billiken Dining Service and SGA are working together to complete a shared document that will specify how much and of what will go to charity, specifically the St. Louis Food Bank.

“We’re working to make sure Chartwells and SGA are on the same page,” Exline said.

The logistics of the program should be finalized within the next couple of weeks.

Mary Dunn, marketing director of Billiken Dining Services, said that Chartwells is look forward to the chance to work with students in this capacity.

“Chartwells is extraordinarily pleased to partner with St. Louis University on one of the most unique and impactful programs in the entire country,” Dunn said.  “The uniqueness of the Flex-to-Feed program is that everyone on our campus can participate, and the impact is that the truly needy in our community will benefit.”

The contract between Chartwells and SLU is due to end in the summer of 2014. At that time, SLU will begin to look at contracts from other food service providers, including Chartwells, and decide whether or not to continue on with Chartwells or start a new contract with a different company.

Exline said that program will continue regardless of which food service the University contracts with.

“Either way, no matter which food provider SLU has, we want to keep up the Flex to Feed program,” Exline said.