Zag Dining's Commitment to Fighting Hunger in Spokane

Children and adults sit around a round table enjoying a meal

July 08, 2024
Jennifer Toone Corrigan | Patch
Zag Dining at Gonzaga University has consistently demonstrated a commitment to supporting the local community, particularly through initiatives aimed at alleviating hunger. Since 2014, Gonzaga has been a recipient of the $20,000 annual grant from the Sodexo Stop Hunger Foundation's Summer Meals Program. This generous funding has enabled the provision of over 137,000 meals to children in need in Spokane during the summer months.

The Sodexo Summer Meals Program, which has been active since 2000, operates in cities across the U.S. and has delivered over 6 million meals to children during the summer. Spokane is proud to be one of the participating cities benefiting from this impactful program.

Enhancing Lives Through Food Security

Working closely with Gonzaga's Center for Community Engagement, Zag Dining has developed innovative methods to distribute food effectively. The collaboration with the university's Center for Community Engagement and AmeriCorps and student volunteers has been pivotal in ensuring that food items reach the intended recipients. Together, they meticulously track distribution locations and regularly meet to align on quantity and quality standards, ensuring that program expectations are met or exceeded.

The impact of the Stop Hunger program on the local community has been profound. One of the most celebrated success stories is the annual summer event with Gonzaga Family Haven. Last year, the event brought together 103 community and family members at the Family Haven Splash Pad for a day of fun, food, and community bonding. Participants enjoyed tacos and beautiful weather, highlighting the significance of food security and the positive influence of community support.

Tangible Impacts and Success Stories

Zag Dining's efforts have led to numerous success stories within the community. The campus has secured two grants specifically for on-campus food pantries, which have become a critical resource for students. Additionally, the annual Stop Hunger MOVE For Hunger Food Drive has been a significant achievement, collecting over 1,000 pounds of food last year and 580 pounds this year. These drives have been essential in providing summer snacks and meals for children, as well as supporting meals for students on campus during summer programs in collaboration with local schools.

Feedback from the community has been overwhelmingly positive. Recipients of the grants have expressed immense gratitude for the support, emphasizing how the assistance meets their needs during school breaks. This positive feedback has prompted Zag Dining to continuously refine their approach, ensuring that the program remains effective and responsive to the community's needs.

Peggy E. Haun-McEwen, Director of Community for Gonzaga Family Haven & Housing Social Service Coordinators, said, “The simple act of coming together for a meal has had a huge impact on our community at Gonzaga Family Haven. Our families, which includes over 150 children, look forward to the amazing food provided but, more importantly, feel the love and support of our greater community at each event. I have a sign in my kitchen that says, ‘Breaking bread is more than sharing a meal’ and this is so true when you see our families gather at Gonzaga Family Haven.”

Looking Ahead: Goals and Expansion

With ongoing support from the Sodexo Stop Hunger Foundation, Zag Dining is committed to sustaining and expanding this vital initiative. The primary goal is to continue the annual grant application process, seeking new and innovative ways to utilize the funds within the guidelines provided. Zag Dining plans to expand the program's reach, ensuring that more children and families benefit from the resources provided.

Engaging the Gonzaga Community

Volunteer involvement has been a cornerstone of the program's success. Zag Dining actively recruits volunteers from the Gonzaga community, including students, faculty, and staff. The impact on volunteers has been profound, as they witness firsthand the significant need for support in the Spokane area. This experience raises awareness about food insecurity and fosters a sense of community and shared responsibility among volunteers.

As Sodexo District Manager Patrick Clelland aptly stated, "Collaboratively working with Gonzaga’s Center for Community Engagement in bringing people together for events and having a program like STOP HUNGER strengthens our bond with each other and brings awareness to the importance of food security for the children in our community. I am SO proud to support our local community and the work that is done in enriching the lives of families and children in our community!"

Zag Dining's commitment to fighting hunger is a testament to the power of community collaboration and the impact of targeted support initiatives. With continued dedication and support, Zag Dining aims to further enhance the lives of children and families in Spokane, ensuring that no one goes hungry.