Students eat together for a cause

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Chris Noriega (left), an Actuarial Science sophomore, reaches for some Japanese takeout on Wednesday afternoon at the Student Activity Center’s food court. Chris and the rest of the students photographed form the “Students Eating Together” club which convenes at the SAC at lunchtime to enjoy their meals together and, since the club is open to everyone, to make new friends from all over the university.

Photo Credit: Andrea Macias-Jimenez | Daily Texan Staff

Editor’s note: This is the second in a series looking at distinctive UT student organizations.

Last semester, marketing senior Henry Zhao was eating with friends on campus when he noticed too many students were eating by themselves.

This is how Students Eating Together was born on campus nine months ago, he said. People shouldn’t have to eat alone, and so many leftovers are thrown away while there are kids in America that go hungry, Zhao said.

“We decided to combine those concepts and create a club where people could go out to eat at interesting places together while raising money for hunger,” he said.

The group does three or four fundraisers every semester and is looking for organizations to donate money to, Zhao said. In the past nine months, they’ve raised a little more than $300, he said.

He said the group has no dues or time commitments, and anyone can join by joining their Facebook group or emailing them at readyseteat@yahoo.com.

“[Students Eating Together] is perfect because you get to meet new people and network while helping out your community,” Zhao said.

There will be an all-day-long fundraiser today at Aster’s Ethiopian Food at the intersection of Dean Keaton and the I-35 access road, and proceeds will be donated to the club’s charity fund, Zhao said. Restaurants share profits from fundraisers with the group, which is how the group earns money to donate, mathematics junior Alex Lin said.

“It’s a good place to find friends,” Lin said. “The people are really cool, and I love the fact that it’s a social organization that’s dedicated to a good cause. You’re eating and having fun, but you know that while you’re having fun you’re helping people.”

The number of people living in poverty is the highest it’s been since the government began taking a census, said John Turner, a spokesman for Capital Area Food Bank of Texas. The food bank serves 48,000 people weekly — 20,000 of whom are children — and provides for an area that is equivalent in size to two Massachusetts, he said.

“I would applaud [Students Eating Together] for at least being aware that there are people out there less fortunate then themselves,” Turner said. “The other message is that every little bit counts. They are using their time and their money and their voice.”

The group is perfect for busy college students with tight schedules, said urban studies sophomore Katie McMurray. She said organizing dinner dates with friends would be much more difficult without the club.

“I love to eat so I found [Students Eating Together],” she said. “I have a few friends who I go to restaurants with, but this makes it organized and fun. What’s better than eating with friends?”

Printed on Friday, October 28, 2011 as: Students' saving grace is eating together