Northwestern Dining: Points for a Purpose

Maya Voelk

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.”


Red Watch Band: A Community of Caring

By Sungsub Billy Choo

Red Watch Band Bystander Intervention Training was one of the first things I joined as a Northwestern freshman. Whenever people asked me what I was involved in on campus though, I barely said I was a Red Watch Band facilitator. The only time that this identity was ever salient was when I had to assert my authority over other people on my knowledge on how to deal with intoxicated people.

I joined it voluntarily and did not think of it as a burden but at the same time, facilitation was not something that I openly enjoyed or thought that would shape my Northwestern experience. But it did. It really did in many aspects.

Frankly, I joined the Red Watch Band training facilitation crew as an eager freshman looking for possible résumé building activities and stayed my sophomore year because of my over-achiever ways. However, as I facilitated more and more of these sessions over the quarters, it became a commitment that I felt really good about making.

First, the administrative efforts put into making Red Watch Band training better every quarter were phenomenal. The results from the participant surveys and verbal concerns of the facilitators were taken into consideration immediately by the Health Promotion and Wellness staff members to keep the materials up to date and relatable to the yearly inflow of new students. I loved working with the HPaW staff and making their efforts count in empowering the students is definitely one of the reasons why I kept coming back year after year since my sophomore year.

The second reason for coming back is the sense of community built around caring for each other. One of the most common complaints that I hear that echo with me is that there barely is time to take care for one another at Northwestern. Friends might be having a hard time but there were midterms to study for, meetings to plan, and internships to apply for and this really bugged many people. However, Red Watch Band training provides the tools and encouragement to intervene. Above all, it is a “band” of people who are trained to help them help others. I think this coalition of students who volunteer to be trained and facilitate it for their peers gives the message that we are not alone when we are unconscious from drinking but also when you’re shaking at the thought of dialing 911 for a friend who is unconscious.

Red Watch Band training is important to Northwestern not because of the content of the training but because it builds a community of Northwestern students who are empowered to help others. Ways to improve Northwestern’s mental and physical health climate is a topic for a different time but Red Watch Band training definitely plays a big role in the dialogue to improve Northwestern student engagement in each others’ lives by giving them the tools for intervention and community.

Looking Back at Four Years

By Alison Bishop

A few weeks ago, a close friend and I were talking about the relevance of a Russian Literature class she had taken sophomore year with Professor Gary Saul Morson. It was a truly ‘Northwestern’ conversation between an English major from Boulder and an Economics major from DC discussed over a Lou Malnati’s deep dish pizza on a Tuesday night.

In a particular lecture from this class, Professor Morson had discussed themes of happiness in Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace, and proposed that the truly happiest moment in one’s life cannot be recognized until after the moment has passed because you are simply too caught up in genuine content of the moment to stop and realize how happy you truly are. As a senior about to graduate, this is exactly how I feel about my time here at Northwestern.

These past four years, for lack of a better term, have been an absolute whirlwind of experiences, all of which have had their highs and lows but over all accumulate to be the truly most enjoyable years of my life. It’s that cliché thing that every adult, movie and hallmark card has told us since we were kids. College will be the best years of your life. Honestly, I buy it.

Four years ago I was lucky enough to get into a school that I felt was a good fit for me. Something about this campus just felt right then, and it has proven to be the best decision I really have ever made. Northwestern has provided me with an unbelievable amount of choices, all of which have twisted and turned into an experience that is just right for what I was looking for in college.

What sets us apart, what rationalizes the tuition and ultimately what creates this sequence of my happiest memories is that fact that in this ‘Northwestern’ environment, we rise to the expectations and standards of our surroundings.

I have experienced this through my involvement with student organizations, but mostly in my interactions with other people on campus. These are the people with whom I have spent days in PA camp, screened movies at Norris, shared midnight snacks in the Alpha Phi basement and indeed discussed themes of Russian Literature over pizza. Looking back collectively, these memories are my happiest and I have Northwestern in its entirety to thank for them.

So, it’s spring quarter senior year, and while pulling up to the Evanston city limits I couldn’t help but laugh out loud a little to myself at the truly indescribable sense of relief and comfort that came with what I saw as my home. What I felt was so different from what was going through my head as a nervous freshman, crying in Dulles Airport about to head off to my first Wildcat Welcome. I had no idea what was coming my way, which was the very thing that was scaring me to death at the time, but is now what makes me smile as I flashback through the past four years.

In my last quarter, I’m getting that same feeling I got in 5th grade when my teacher started letting us play kickball outside instead of working for the last few days of school. It’s a confusing feeling of comfort mixed with nervous anxiety anticipating the end of something you have become so used to. I have this weird urge to make bucket lists of what I need to do before I graduate, but I’m finding that it is far more exciting to make lists of everything that has happened in the past four years. I’m not living in the past, but making an effort to be more appreciative in order to enjoy the last few months of my college present.

NU-Q: We Are One

By Nesa Mangal

I was afforded the opportunity to spend my spring break visiting Northwestern’s campus in Doha. Despite over 7,000 miles in-between us, I was proud of the solidarity between the two campuses. Upon arrival, the other NU-E students and I were greeted at the airport terminal with Wildcat roars, huge purple paws, and hugs from NU-Q students whom we had never met before. Their enthusiasm and purple pride made me feel welcome in a part of the world I had never been to before. Within a day, the student ambassadors, who showed us around and let us shadow classes, became our best friends.

There was an instant culture exchange. As a journalism major with a passion and minor in Middle East North African Studies, being able to explore Qatari culture first-hand was beneficial. My shadow buddy shared her Qatari culture with me. She took me abaya shopping, which is the traditional black robe-like dress worn by some women of the Muslim world, and taught me how to wear it. She taught me local Qatari words and how to bargain at the traditional market. We drank karak tea, ate sheep and kanafeh.

Despite the distance, there existed a bond beyond culture and nationality. Northwestern not only invites, but practices developing a broad range of perspectives and experiences in its student body. The day I left Doha I knew I wanted to come back to the Middle East. I also knew that on the other side of the world I had gained friends for a lifetime, and the endless pride of a solid Northwestern community regardless of where I was in the world.

Sustained Dialogue: Meeting Northwestern’s Needs

By Pooja Mirchandani

When I first got involved with Sustained Dialogue, I had no idea that I would have the chance to work on a project that has the potential to benefit the lives of hundreds of Northwestern students.

Instead, I was originally trained as a moderator because as a Third Culture Kid (“a person who has spent a significant part of his or her developmental years outside their parents’ culture”), I was looking for a place on campus to meet people with diverse experiences and a forum to really explore how my unique background plays into my life here at Northwestern. For both of those reasons, Sustained Dialogue seemed like the perfect group to join.

I spent my first quarter as a participant, and last quarter I had the chance to moderate for the first time. Our group was great. Everyone was eager to participate and had something to say or to share, which made my experience as a moderator that much more rewarding. This was especially true since every single person brought something completely different to the group in terms of their backgrounds, families, experiences, future plans, involvement on campus, and all other aspects of identity.

However, what we soon noticed is that the one topic that kept resurfacing and that everyone was passionate about was socioeconomic status – in particular, the socioeconomic status disparity that exists on campus and the fact that few people are aware of just how much of an impact that divide has on student life and extracurricular involvement.

As someone who grew up moving around the world, only attending private, international schools filled with students from extremely affluent families, hearing about the extent of the burden that socioeconomic disparity places on my peers here at Northwestern was truly surprising. It soon became clear that I wasn’t alone in that surprise either. As a result, we chose to focus our attention on figuring out how to take action on campus to open peoples’ eyes to this disparity that exists and to alleviate the burden that socioeconomic status places on extracurricular participation.

So we planned our Stage 5 project: to create a formalwear closet on campus where students can rent out suits, formal dresses, briefcases, etc. for any events that may require formal or professional attire. We call it NU Threads.

Through this project, I have had the opportunity to really hone and develop my leadership skills, especially because of how closely we are working with different administrative and student leaders at Northwestern. In addition, I have truly come to understand the potential impact of Sustained Dialogue. As an organization that enables students to talk about the topics that affect many of us but that we don’t really discuss, it has incredible potential to really transform the lives of students who both participate directly and who benefit from initiatives like NU Threads.

Furthermore, I am now in a position where I can truly impact the Northwestern community. Our group is made up of dedicated individuals who really want NU Threads to work out. We are well aware that we have incredible amounts of work to do and enormous obstacles to clear to even get the project off the ground, but – especially after analyzing the survey results – we are even more aware of the need and desire for a resource like this. So we’re willing to work to make this happen. And that is how I found myself in the position that I’m in today: where I can truly impact hundreds of Northwestern students through this single project and with this incredible group of people.

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The Magic of Dance Marathon

By Ethan Levine-Weinberg and Kelsey Adams

As the Emcees for the 40th Northwestern University Dance Marathon (NUDM), one of the most common questions we get is, “How are you preparing to do this job within an event of this magnitude?” Keeping 1,500 dancers’ energy high for 30 consecutive hours can certainly seem like a daunting task. But we have a few tricks up our collective sleeve to get us ready for a life-changing weekend:

1) It really is a marathon, so be prepared for the physical challenge. We will exert an unthinkable amount of energy over the course of 30 hours from jumping around and executing various Dougies and Stanky Legs. So, we have to be especially kind to our bodies in the weeks leading up to NUDM weekend. This means being conscientious of our diets and the amount of exercise we are getting. When it comes to the event itself, having the proper snacks and beverages backstage will be crucial for maintaining our astronomically high onstage energy levels.

2) Stepping on stage into the bright lights in front of that many people also requires a degree of mental preparation in the weeks and months preceding NUDM. Perhaps our biggest friend when we storm into the tent for the first time will be the confidence we have in both ourselves and our ability to excite such a large crowd. We have been using NUDM events such as Top Chef, weekly trivia, and Battle of the Bands to solidify our chemistry. These experiences will have been invaluable in proving to everyone, and ourselves especially, that we are ready to take this challenge head-on.

3) The most important thing we are doing to prepare is constantly reminding ourselves why we wanted these roles in the first place. Team Joseph and the children it benefits are brilliant, inspiring, and dedicated. We remind ourselves that our “term” as NUDM’s Emcees began the evening we were selected. From the moment we heard the news, we began pouring our hearts and souls into being the best friends and advocates for Team Joseph.
With every new child we meet who is affected by Duchenne, our mission is reaffirmed and strengthened. When the clock strikes 7 p.m. CST on March 7th, the cause will be the only thing in our minds. We will imagine that all of the children we have met, and so many more, are dancing on stage with us. We dance because we know that one day soon, through the magic of NUDM and Team Joseph, that will become possible.

The Campus Kitchens and NUCuisine help end hunger

By Maya Voelk

Since 2001, NUCuisine has been partnering with The Campus Kitchens at Northwestern University (CKNU). Campus Kitchens is an organization that partners with high schools, colleges and universities to recover food from local dining halls. The unused food is then turned into meals that help feed the less fortunate in the local community.

Last year, NUCuisine contributed roughly 80% of the total food collected by CKNU, donating nearly 25,000 pounds of food to help feed people throughout the Evanston and Chicago area.

“Knowing that we are able to serve such a substantial role in giving back to our community is absolutely incredible,” said Steve Mangan, the Sodexo resident district manager for the Northwestern Dining program. “Our next step is to increase that number by continuing to educate Northwestern students on the importance of food waste reduction.”

Jonathan Eisen, the Program Coordinator for CKNU, explained the positive relationship between the two organizations. “CKNU’s partnership with NUCuisine/Sodexo goes way beyond the meal. With their (NUCuisine) support we are able to provide nearly 600 healthy and nutritious meals for our individual and non-profit clients each and every week,” Eisen said.

The partnership has also fostered some exciting new programs, including a nutrition education program for almost 75 children at after-school programs in Evanston. NUCuisine and Sodexo have also supported the National Campus Kitchens Conference, which will be held in early April of this year on the campus of Northwestern University.

“This will be an even greater opportunity to highlight the strong working relationship between CKNU and NUCuisine/Sodexo to other campus kitchen groups throughout the country” Eisen said.

In addition, the partnership with CKNU aligns with Sodexo’s STOP Hunger Initiative, which was launched in 1996. Through volunteers, shared expertise, food donations, and financial donations, the STOP Hunger Initiative aims to change the fact that nearly one billion people suffer from hunger and malnutrition every day.

As we enter into a new year, these two organizations are exploring new and creative ways to increase the amount of food that can be donated. Both groups aim to increase awareness for hunger issues worldwide.

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