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by Terri Hogan
Senior Staff Writer
When Olney resident Doron Tadmor learned that 20 percent of students at the University of Maryland in College Park suffer from food insecurity, he and his fellow student government officers worked with the university to create a solution.
Allison Lilly Tjaden, assistant director of New Initiatives for the university’s Dining Services, confirmed that food insecurity – the lack of reliable access to sufficient quantities of affordable, safe, nutritious food – is a national issue with local impact affecting some students, faculty and staff in the campus community.
Tadmor said food insecurity can be identified by many factors, including worrying that food will run out; purchasing food that spoils too quickly and not being able to afford more; eating less than desired in order to save it; not eating for fear of running out of food; or not being able to afford balanced meals.
Tadmor serves as the chief of staff for the Student Government Association (SGA), referring to himself as the president’s “right-hand man.”
Last year, while working with Dining Services staff as part of the Dining Advisory Board, Tadmor first heard about the food insecurity problem on campus and learned that a study was underway to assess the issue.
While awaiting the results, he talked to Dining Services staff about the problem and completed further research, which included looking at how other Big Ten schools dealt with the issue.
The results of the study came out last spring.
“I was shocked to learn that 20 percent of the University of Maryland’s undergraduate and graduate students are food insecure,” Tadmor said. “That is one in five students, of the 30,000 to 40,000 students who go here. I know that people I interact with on campus have issues.”
Tadmor strives to make a tangible impact on the lives of others and believes that all students should have access to the best educational experience possible.
“That information was crazy to me,” he said. “People who are food insecure tend to skip classes to go to events where there is free food. They are sacrificing their education to get food.”
Tjaden said other negative impacts of food insecurity on academic experience and performance include not being able to concentrate in class, failing an assignment or exam, missing a class, failing or withdrawing from a class, and planning to withdraw from the university altogether.
“The study has also found that students who reported they were food insecure were likely to report a number of other challenges, such as poorer physical health, lower self-esteem, and higher levels of distress, anxiety, depression, anger and loneliness, compared to their counterparts,” she said.
Making sure everyone gets plenty to eat
While the university opened a Campus Pantry in 2014 that provides emergency food to campus community members in need, Tadmor created a model to provide more immediate support to students who are food insecure and worked with Dining Services staff to implement the Emergency Meal Fund (EMF).
“Often times students who are food insecure are homeless or have other restrictions that prevent them from transporting and refrigerating food or cooking with ingredients,” he said. “The EMF addresses this gap and allows for a more immediate short-term solution.”
The program provides students with cards that offer a set number of meal swipes to use in campus dining halls. The cards will be distributed through several offices to students in need.
The SGA has allocated $5,000 for the program that will provide over 166 cards, resulting in more than 1,660 meals, to students who have very low food insecurity.
“The program is designed to create a stress-free environment for students that is free from the stigma that comes from being food insecure,” Tadmor said. “While many students may feel uncomfortable asking friends for help or support, providing these resources for students allow them to get the support they need.”
The program had a soft launch last spring.
“It was successful, so we rolled the program out this fall,” he said. “The feedback has been pretty positive.”
Tjaden said the EMF program is still in the pilot phase. Upon completion of the pilot, she said they intend to review the program and adjust it as needed to best serve the campus community.
Tadmor, 20, is a junior at the University of Maryland, College Park, where he is double-majoring in international business and operations management and business analytics.
“Doron is an incredible student leader here at UMD and I really appreciate working with him,” Tjaden said.
Tadmor grew up in Olney, attending Belmont Elementary, Rosa Parks Middle School and Sherwood High School.
He was featured in The Greater Olney News last February for his involvement with PAKA, a Peruvian-based company that offers unique alpaca wool apparel for purchase, while helping to financially empower local women.
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