Student Uses Extra Meal Swipes to Donate to Survival Center

By Chris Shores

Jillian Duclos found herself with 80 meal swipes in mid-December of last year. Knowing that much food and money would go to waste could make any appetite vanish, so she gave them away.

Duclos, a junior, came up with the idea in the final weeks of the semester last month. She then contacted auxiliary services and spoke to Richard Callender, an employee at the Blue Wall. Callender and Duclos worked together to draft a plan for donating the meals.

‘We decided that it would be best for me to order 80 grab-and-go type meals, which consisted of a sandwich, chips, a bottle of water, a cookie and fruit,’ said Duclos.

With the help of her friend Tom Borden, Duclos then brought the meals to the Amherst Survival Center.

‘The faces of the volunteers and recipients lit up when we came through the door with the boxes of food. They seemed genuinely grateful for the donation,’ she said.

According to the University of Massachusetts Dining services, students have ordered large quantities of food items in the past. But this may be the first time a student has used the food as a donation on such a grand scale, said David Eichstaedt, senior manager of retail dining.

‘Students might use the food to feed the kids on their residential hall floor or something to that effect. Sometimes kids order pizza or something to that nature, but usually in smaller quantities,’ he said.

Borden, a senior, said when Duclos first approached the Blue Wall, they suggested she use her remaining swipes to buy cases of drinks or snacks for herself.

‘I was happy to see she was resolute and wanted to donate her remaining meals,’ said Borden. ‘Jill is a remarkable person with a great heart. Doing the right thing just comes natural to her.’

Duclos was raised in a family that encouraged community service whenever possible. Once she came up with the idea to donate her remaining meal swipes, it seemed to her the obvious option.

‘It is no secret that most hardworking families in the United States are struggling to put food on the table. Some of these families happen to live in Amherst. Everyone needs help at some point in their lives, and this was my way of providing the community with some relief,’ she said.

Borden said he hoped that Duclos’ example would inspire others to follow in her footsteps, and that if he was still on the meal plan, he’d be donating his meals right alongside her.

The Blue Wall and UMass Dining Services were happy to assist with this donation, but said that it would be logistically impossible for everyone to repeat Duclos’ act of charity.

‘While I can appreciate what Jillian is trying to do, this is not something that we are set up to do on a regular basis,’ Eichstaedt said. ‘We don’t normally prepare orders of this size to be taken off of the premises. Generally catering does an event like this, but they do not accept YCMP swipes.’

An alternative route of donating meals might be reached through the forming of a student-run organization.

‘I think a formal program would be a great idea,’ said Duclos. ‘I would love to help organize a program here at UMass. I do not know a lot about running community service projects, but if there are other people who do, I would like to collaborate with them.’

‘Everyone is able to make a difference in someone else’s life, no matter how big or small. I would encourage everyone who is able to provide help to do,’ she said.

The Amherst Survival Center has been in operation since 1976. According to their Web site, ‘ASC is a nonprofit agency supported by contributions from many community friends. Most donations come from individual donors. Local grocers and businesses, community and religious groups, and individuals provide goods and services as well as financial support.’

Chris Shores can be reached at [email protected]