PB & J project by SPU Dining adapts to pandemic

PB&J sandwich drive adapts to online format to continue service despite COVID limitations

Photo Illustration by Gabrialla Cockerell

On January 29, SPU finalized their annual PB&J sandwich drive which donates sandwiches to local charities that serve the homeless population in Seattle. SPU Dining has been facilitating the drive for people in the local homeless community since at least 2015. 

The standard way that the drive has worked in the past is that SPU dining services conducts their efforts by having students put together peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and bag them. After students assemble the sandwiches, SPU food services donates 300-400 to local charities.

In 2015, SPU Dining held a PB&J drive for the Tent City residents. Tent City is a temporary housing settlement of tents and structures used to house homeless, which was located at Wallace Field. 

Because of crowding issues in charity kitchens, reputable charities will not take food unless it is produced in a commercial kitchen. This has made it impossible for direct student involvement in  the project this year.

Despite the inability for students to be physically involved in the sandwich making process, the SPU dining services staff chose to launch a virtual drive in an effort to ensure students could participate through their social media interaction with a post on Instagram. On the post, each tag, like or share would mean one sandwich would be donated. 

Madeline Petrin, marketing coordinator for SPU dining services, explained in an interview that she got the idea from Gonzaga’s version of the project. Signage was placed for the event at dining locations across campus to tell students to look out social media posts. 

“I know there are a lot of students not necessarily on campus right now, so for them to be able to engage with dining services, even remotely, is a big win for us,” Petrin said. 

In an email, Petrin said the number of students who interacted with the post totaled 397, which equated to 612 sandwiches.

According to Petrin, the project donated the sandwiches to an organization called Real Change, which focuses on homeless relief and entrepreneurship efforts. 

 “A tag gave you a donated sandwich, liking the post gave a donated sandwich, and sharing the post gave a donated sandwich… then we compiled the sandwiches and donated them to Real Change,” Petrin said. 

Petrin explained that future student involvement will depend mostly on the pandemic and the safety level for those involved. For the project this year, Sodexo staff members were designated for the making of sandwiches and getting them to the local charities.

She believes that engaging physically in the efforts with this drive can have a bigger impact on the students. 

“It is a good way for the students to physically engage. As much as a click is helpful, actually seeing what you are doing is more impactful,” Petrin said. 

In the social media response, Petrin explained that the goal for donating sandwiches was set at 500 and was easily surpassed by students online. Petrin commented on the post when it reached 200 sandwiches made and when they reached the 500 sandwich goal. 

“SPU Dining enjoys giving back to our community and appreciates our student’s support with this very successful promotion,” Petrin explained in an email response about student participation and feedback.