This week marks the one year anniversary of my baked goods initiative. A year ago, I brought baked goods to campus from Publix--the baked goods were going in the trash if I hadn't showed up. I put out some of the baked goods and put the rest in the freezer.
The next day, they were gone, a whole freezer full. Lesson learned--I now keep many of the baked goods in my office. They stay good throughout most of the week. The muffins have a tendency to mold quickly, so I put them out first.
If I put baked goods in the freezer or the fridge, I put them in a plastic bag with a note that says, "Please save until Thursday." People don't often take what they can't see; they're not tempted by a knotted plastic bag.
I spend a good chunk of my work week moving baked goods around. For example, on Monday I unloaded the car; we got 3 cart loads of food, so yesterday, there was still bread left. It got moved to the conference room so that there was more space for the Job Fair. At the end of the Job Fair, I moved the bread back. I also put out baked goods in the morning and sliced cakes in the afternoon.
As I moved the bread back yesterday, I said, "I've spent a better part of the week moving baked goods around. Maybe I should open a bakery when I'm done here." One student said, "Yes you should." I'm trying not to interpret her comment as a cosmic sign.
Occasionally students thank me. Once a student asked, "Do you buy us all these goodies with your own money?"
I wish I made that kind of money. If I had to pay for all the bakery items I bring in, it would be hundreds of dollars a week.
I have wondered why/how the bakery produces so much stuff they can't sell week after week. My spouse's theory is that it's better to make the bread so that customers can have it than have an unfulfilled need. And I'm assuming that Publix gets a tax write off for the donations.
I pursued the idea of the baked goods because once, long ago, I did the bakery run for our church's food pantry. I was amazed at the amount of bakery goods given to our food pantry. As I heard and read about the hunger issues faced by students, I wanted to do something.
Yes, I wish I could get food that has more nutritive value. I did ask the produce manager what happens to the produce that's going bad--it's donated to Feeding South Florida, a charity group that distributes food to the needy. I can't figure out how I'd distribute meat, dairy or eggs, assuming I could get donations.
Even though the baked goods aren't the most nutritious, they can fill an empty stomach and provide calories to keep going. Some of our students are missing meals, and this food will help. I've heard from a few of them who tell me so, and there are probably others who are quietly grateful.
On Monday, one woman told me that her children look forward to Mondays to see what she's bringing home with her. That comment made me happy.
I like the look of the counter in the student break room filled with treats--free treats!--and a table full of bread. That's what hospitality looks like to me. I like strategizing about how to make the treats last all week. I enjoy taking breaks from my administrator work to put out more treats.
One week we got all bread and no treats. I had some sticks of butter left over from an event, so each week, I put out the toaster, butter, and sliced loaves that I set aside. I thought students would be irritated with toast each day, but I was wrong.
Each week, as an administrator, I do a variety of tasks. I'm sure that the bosses above me would argue that my non-food tasks are more important. But these days, I'm less sure. They might scoff, but I do think that having food on site can help with retention.
There are other initiatives that might help more, like a day care center or a car mechanic on site. But those initiatives would not be as easy to initiate and keep going, and I'm not sure how I could make them free for students (yes, lots of grants, and hiring of people and adding 10 more hours to every day).
Today I'm taking a moment of gratitude for what I have accomplished. I may not be saving the world, but I'm making my corner of it better.
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