Help A Triton effort

With the new Triton Hunger Relief Fund, social work majors Madeline Stroder (at left) and Caitlin Zurfluh are seeking to ensure that fellow UMSL students don’t have to choose between paying for college or food. (Photo by August Jennewein)

Going to class hungry is an unfortunate reality for an increasing number of students on college campuses nationally. The University of Missouri–St. Louis has seen the problem here – and is responding.

This week (April 25 through 29), students, faculty and staff eating at the Nosh, Café TJ, Einstein Bros. Bagels or Jamba Juice can add a dollar to their bill to support a new Triton Hunger Relief Fund. The hunger fund and “Help A Triton” fundraising campaign is a joint effort of UMSL’s Student Social Services and Sodexo, the campus food vendor.

Leading the charge are two UMSL social work majors, Madeline Stroder and Caitlin Zurfluh, who work in Student Social Services in student practicum roles. Both consider the new initiative a labor of love and essential component of becoming professionals in their chosen fields.

“I have been able to build skills in program development, evaluation and implementation,” Zurfluh said. “It’s helped me build greater confidence in my skills as a soon-to-be professional social worker.”

Echoing Zurfluh, Stroder said she is “developing new skills and strategies that will help me not only as a social worker but also in my daily life as a student, friend and advocate.” Among those skills are program development, case management, needs assessment, data collection, fundraising and research.

Neither mentioned sales, which certainly is an oversight as they – along with graduate student Mohamad Alrahawan – wowed Chancellor Tom George when pitching the program to him.

“They are simply dynamic – professional and convincing,” George said of the students. “And I’m excited that they are helping launch this program. UMSL is an extremely diverse campus – ethnically, culturally and economically. We have an above-average number of first-generation and PELL Grant eligible students.”

“We’ve invested in institutional scholarships to help these students attend and graduate,” George said. “This campaign starts to look at other aspects of college access and success.”

Student Social Services will create a confidential online system for eligible students to access the funds, beginning next fall semester, said the unit’s senior social worker Robin Kimberlin.

Kimberlin also said that those not able to eat at one of the campus locations during the campaign can donate directly by sending a check to Advancement Services in 107 Woods Hall. Checks should be made out to UMSL, with a notation targeting the gift to the Triton Hunger Relief Fund. Or, easier yet, hit this link: ‪

“The direct giving component was added after people starting hearing of this effort,” Kimberlin said. “The response has been very positive. And we’re certainly delighted with our partner Sodexo – literally this couldn’t happen without them.”

UMSL Student Social Services was created in 2011 to raise the campus’s awareness of and commitment to the basic needs of students in and out of the classroom. It is a unit of the Division of Student Affairs.

The UMSL Experience

Bob Samples

Bob Samples

Bob Samples is associate vice chancellor for university communications at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.