Meal plan donations raise almost $2,500 for Haiti

St. Thomas students donated 965 meals last week from their meal plans to support relief efforts in Haiti. Junior Brian Osende independently organized the fundraiser to benefit the American Refuge Committee and Haiti Outreach, Inc.

Osende originally wanted to host a benefit show or concert to raise money for Haiti through his club, African Nations Students Association (ANSA). When another student told him about how students could donate meal plans, Osende met with Todd Empanger, director of food services, to get the guidelines for the fundraiser.

Osende decided to organize it independently from ANSA, because the process was a lot easier.

“I wanted to put something to bring students together,” he said.

Osende came up with the slogan “United for Haiti,” which reflected his desire for students to come together.

Freshman Kristyn Brisnehan thought the donation idea was “great.” She donated a meal and said she appreciated the “opportunity to help other people [who] are facing bigger problems in the world.” But she did not realize until reading a TommieMedia article on meal plans how much money was actually donated for her single meal.

For every student who gave up a meal, food service donated $2.50, which resulted in $2,412.50 raised for the two organizations. Still, some students wondered why the full $6 to $8 they pay for a meal wasn’t donated.

Empanger said that the $6 to $8 not donated “would include all fixed expenses that do not change, such as overhead, administrative and labor [costs].” The $2.50 donated per meal is the standard amount that food services matches in donation drives.

Brisnehan said she wishes she “could have donated more than one meal, especially since each meal only equals $2.50, which is actually going to the Haitian people.”

Osende estimated that he got three-quarters of North Campus diners to donate a meal over the course of the week. He said he did not go to South Campus because he did not have enough people to sit at the tables.

Although he hoped to raise more money, Osende said he was “pleased” with the results of the fundraiser.

“It’s amazing to see how far $3 can go in a far-away country,” he said.

ANSA has planned an event in early March to raise more money for Haiti. Osende plans on having skits, poetry readings and other forms of entertainment, and a relief worker from the American Refugee Committee will speak about relief efforts.

Theresa Malloy can be reached at