Ever wonder what one meal can do? 

We are More Than Pennies, a completely student-run organization based at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, PA. We are committed to using dining hall meals to feed those in need. Our group started with a core trio of Ricky Oxenhandler, Becca Elman and Jake Werlin when they were freshmen at Penn. All three noticed that there were hundreds of meals left unused, and decided to do something about it. It began by taking meals to-go from the dining halls at Penn, and taking them to Center City (Philadelphia). The three would take the subway with the meals and a few friends and would distribute the meals to any homeless person found in the subway stations of Philadelphia. Often dozens of homeless were found getting ready to settle down for the night. Over the first semester of action, 124 meals were given over four days out to the homeless on the streets of Philadelphia.

Eventually, the organization expanded. More students at Penn became aware of the group, and many more wanted to get involved. As it became more widely known, more meals were steadily being taken into the city. More Than Pennies decided to switch from interacting directly with the homeless to working with some of the shelters of the city. More Than Pennies decided to do this because of the wider support base and also in order to ensure the safety of the volunteers. Over the Spring Semester of 2009, More Than Pennies developed a relationship with a few of the shelters within the city. The group would still bring meals put together in the dining halls at Penn to the shelters, normally carried in duffel bags and plastic bags. 

Recently, More Than Pennies decided to take it to the next level. In conjunction with Penn Dining, the group took a different approach in order to appeal to a larger number of students. Through various methods such as facebook, twitter, email and word of mouth, the Spring '09 event was advertised widely. As opposed to asking students to fill to-go boxes with non-perishable food, this time MTP asked students to fill out a short form which allowed them to specify how many meals they were willing to donate. Penn Dining then converted these meals into currency and bought non-perishable goods in bulk. More Than Pennies, which by then had grown considerably in size, took these goods to the shelters that the group had come to know over the semester.  

The shelters are all incredibly grateful. It is something that is so simple for us, as students at college, to do. For the homeless, it is a substantial meal and a bright spot in their day.

But only you can make this happen. 




- Also, for those that are not students at Penn but would like to start up a chapter of More Than Pennies in their own neighborhood, please contact Ricky Oxenhandler at rox@wharton.upenn.edu.


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