It was a blustery, prematurely harsh winter evening, but the room we entered was cozy, immediately brightened by Shannon and Joe’s warm personalities. We made small talk — the finals schedule, the atrocious weather — and eventually the cessation of world hunger. It was clear this was certainly not the first time they had this conversation, as they patiently but animatedly relayed their mission to me.
LSA senior Shannon Zandee, president of the University’s chapter of FeelGood, greeted me with a smile. She stood petite, with LSA junior Joe Murray, FeelGood’s deli manager standing about two heads taller than her. Though they seemed like a contrasting pair, they maintain a solid partnership which upholds a successful club.
Zandee and Murray are two core members of FeelGood’s chapter at the University, a volunteer organization committed to ending global hunger in our lifetime — a hefty goal for ordinary college students. In exchange for a freshly made grilled cheese sandwich, sold every two weeks and delivered at the height of nighttime study sessions, they earn a profit, 100 percent of which goes to hunger-ending organizations. Students operate every aspect of the operation, including advertising, cooking and delivery runs. Priced at a minimum suggested donation of $4, their menu features twists on the classic comfort food, such as the “Kerrytown,” a sweet combination of apples and honey, and the “Big House,” Joe’s personal favorite which he calls “the pizza sandwich.”
Zandee planted the club’s seed at the University after she transferred from the University of Vermont during her sophomore year.
“I saw how successful UVM’s chapter was,” Zandee said. “How much they were able to get the word out about world hunger and be effective change-makers in a fun and positive way … So seeing this huge campus that is really passionate about a lot of things, I saw that as an opportunity to spread that word.”
After devoting a semester to tedious paperwork, planning and fighting discouraging red tape, she finally established the club, which started selling sandwiches last year. Though they initially struggled to make FeelGood’s typical kiosk vendor strategy work, they catered their tactics to better fit Michigan’s fast-paced student lifestyle. Unique to most other chapters, they operate solely on delivery delis, personally bringing the sandwiches directly to students who order them.
However, FeelGood is much more than this exchange. They maintain that it’s more about partnership than it is charity.
At it’s core, that is exactly what Zandee and Murray embody. They speak almost perfectly in tandem, finishing each other’s thoughts and elaborating on the other’s ideas.
Just as they work together in coordinated harmony, they do the same with the numerous partnerships they’ve created since the club’s inception. They now collaborate with the Sigma Chi fraternity for access to a kitchen, with Zingerman’s Deli for bread donations and with Central Student Government for a bulk of their funding for other supplies.
Most importantly though, their primary partnership is with the students who purchase the grilled cheeses and who aim to be educated about the cause. Beyond simply raising money for a charitable cause, FeelGood has a much larger mission to educate locally. Each Tuesday at weekly meetings, they gather with about 20 other committed members to inform themselves and others on sustainability and the global hunger crisis.
“As far as the communities that we’re helping, that’s all abroad, but the local impact comes from the conversations we have while raising awareness on campus,” Murray said. “So, we’re not directly helping to end hunger in Ann Arbor … but we get people talking and thinking about these things locally to help internationally.”
Zander said the partnership expands to many levels. “So it’s a really cool moment when we deliver a sandwich and someone gets the mission and really embraces it and they end up donating $5 instead of the usual three,” Zander said.
Consequently, they have also formed a beautiful partnership with each other — the essence of why the club has become so successful from its foundation.
“It’s a really nice opportunity to meet people who are passionate about global issues … They’re some of the coolest people I know,” Zandee said.
“We spend a lot of time together,” Murray said. “It takes a lot of coordination, a lot of meetings, a lot of planning and the small people trying to start a club at this big University has been the best bonding opportunity.”
As they invest so much time into the ambitious undertaking, they only become more passionate about sustainability issues and the eradication of world hunger themselves. As they educate others, they consequently delve in further to the cause themselves.
“One of the big aspects that FeelGood emphasizes is that it’s helping people end their own hunger,” Murray said. “So it’s not about giving people food handouts, or giving them money. It’s about raising (awareness), doing different education things and sustainability practices — just trying to empower the communities.”
Because FeelGood generally focuses on the logistics of the sandwich making and the delivery, they stress the extra effort to remind themselves of the bigger picture beyond the day-to-day.
“People should care about the work we do because it’s bigger than (feeding hungry people),” Zandee said. “When people are hungry, they can’t really reach their full human creative potential … If everyone had enough to eat to maintain a healthy, active lifestyle — they would have such beautiful voices to offer to the world.”
“There are so many people in the world with so much to offer, but they can’t focus on doing anything but feeding themselves on a day-to-day basis,” Murray said. “If we can help take that strain away, we can see what some of these people can do who may not have been able to show this potential otherwise.”
In essence, they want everyone to be involved in this grander partnership.
We eventually parted ways for the night — them off to their meeting, and me off to start my Chaucer essay. As I finish up my paper, I’ll have another site open next to my procrastination tabs for FeelGood’s last delivery of the semester. I’ll surely get my own “Vegetable Victor” — hopefully to satisfy my late-night study munchies and my small contribution to ending world hunger.