As Northwestern sophomores Bryan Berger and Dean Meisel delivered their presentation at The Campus Kitchens Food & Hunger Summit, it seemed that they had been involved in the cause forever. They spoke passionately about food insecurity in Evanston and Chicago, the dining program at Northwestern, and the overwhelming problem of food waste in the United States. So it may have come as a surprise to the listeners in the crowd that Meisel and Berger’s waste reduction program, Points for a Purpose, had not even been an idea a year ago.
While at Lisa’s Café at the end of spring quarter last year, Berger and Meisel ran into a friend that mentioned that she had about $400 worth of meal points on her WildCARD to use before the end of the quarter. What’s more, she was going home the next day. Not wanting her points to go to waste, she left her WildCARD with Meisel and Berger, hoping they could put the money to better use.
Immediately, the two began doing what any other college student would do: they started buying heaps of food for themselves and others. They soon realized that these actions were helping no one.
“We realized we really didn’t want a lot of this stuff,” Berger said. “We were thinking that there must be something we could do with these extra points.”
From there, the idea for Points for a Purpose was launched. Berger and Meisel met with Northwestern Dining marketing manager Jason Sophian at the start of fall quarter to propose a plan that would make use of the excess points had at the end of each quarter.
After brainstorming and making revisions to the plan, Northwestern Dining was on board and the project went into action. The finalized plan allowed students to donate their points to The Campus Kitchens Project at Northwestern University (CKNU), which would subsequently utilize the points to buy food for people in need. Soon fellow students were asking how they could get involved.
By the end of the fall quarter, Points for a Purpose had raised over $1,200. With the winter quarter just wrapped up, Points for a Purpose has raised close to $2,500 this school year.
Berger and Meisel hope that Points for a Purpose can draw awareness to the food insecurity present in Evanston. “It’s a commonly overlooked issue,” Berger said. “Not only do we want to give purpose to a resource we already have, but we can now spread awareness about how much food insecurity there is in the area that people don’t see on campus.”
Since starting the program, Meisel and Beger have become a chapter of Swipes for the Homeless, a group dedicated to alleviating hunger and raising awareness of food insecurity The collaboration gives Berger and Meisel a larger network of support and resources to work with. They also hope to create a stronger relationship between Northwestern and the surrounding community through their efforts.
As they wrapped up their presentation, Berger and Meisel stressed the convenience and practicality of Points for a Purpose. “It’s pretty straightforward,” Meisel said, “We’re taking a resource that’s not getting used and we’re putting it to use. Everybody wins.”