Texas Athletics Department

Photo Credit: Zoe Fu | Daily Texan Staff

UT football fans may not think about the tons of food being wasted at every single game, but Texas Athletics does. This year, Texas Athletics partnered with the Central Texas Food Bank to donate leftover catering food to families in need.

Operations and Sustainability Coordinator Lauren Lichterman said about 1.2 pounds of food is equal to one meal. To date, not including the game against Texas Tech University last Friday, 1.48 tons of food have been donated this year, which is about 2,500 meals.

Lichterman said the food is donated instead of disposed of sustainably because Texas Athletics believes it’s important to take an extra step to help people in need.

“People are more important than trash,” Lichterman said. “This is a community, and we’re all about the relationship we have with the community. We want to do the right thing and not the quick thing, and it’s right to help our community.”

If people saved one-fourth of the food being wasted globally, 870 million hungry people could be fed. Lichterman said this is a fact that drives her.

“It just pushes me because we live in a world where people should be helping each other,” Lichterman said. “There’s a quote, ‘You don’t have to help everybody, start by helping one person,’ so the impact you have as one person may not dramatically impact the world, but it could change one person’s life — and we’ve changed 2,500 people’s lives.”

Food that was never served is stored in an industrial-sized refrigerator near the main loading docks and picked up by the food bank the Monday following a game.

“The fridge has been full basically every single game,” Lichterman said. “If we can find a spot for a second fridge, we could donate even more food next season.”

Alicia Willoughby, international relations and global studies freshman, said she believes the partnership with the food bank is a step in the right direction.

“As a student, that makes me extremely happy and proud to hear that UT has given back in this way,” Willoughby said. “Thousands of tons of food are wasted just at UT alone, so the fact that Texas Athletics is doing something to curb our food waste is fantastic. It’s even better that thousands of people are being fed in the process.”

This is one of Texas Athletics’ many projects to help the University become zero waste by 2020. Sustainability studies sophomore Katherine Trujillo is a part of the Campus Environmental Center, which is one of the groups that volunteers to help sort other waste produced during games.

“This is great to show that even big operations like a football game can divert huge amounts of waste,” Trujillo said.

The donations are not being given to gain recognition, Lichterman said, but because it is the right thing to do.

“We hope we have some sort of influence on changing the world for the better,” Lichterman said. “I don’t know if we will, but all we can do is our part.”

Many of UT’s student veterans may skip the annual veteran’s football game next month because of difficulties with seating.

Every year, UT honors veterans by decidating one of its games in November to veterans. But student veteran attendance might not be very high this year. Marc Hamlin, vice president of the Student Veterans Association, said student veterans are frustrated with UT athletics because of student seating issues. This past summer, Hamlin and Stephen Ollar, president of Student Veterans Association, approached the Texas Athletics Department about the possibility of working around Texas Athletics’ current group seating system to get student veterans better seats. UT was not able to help them.

“This is pushing a lot of veterans away from getting to go to the football game,” Hamlin said. “Student veterans do not want to sit next to what is to them an obnoxious 18-year-old. They are just on different maturity levels.”

Veteran students are usually much older than UT’s traditional students, and Hamlin said many veterans are not attending the games right now because of frustrations with seating.

Under Texas Athletics‘ current system, students who want seating with their friends or a student organization can make a group when they purchase their football tickets. UT’s Athletics Department assigns tickets based on a group’s lowest class qualification. A group with all seniors is likely to get seats in the lower deck, and a group with all seniors and one freshman is likely to get seats in the upper deck.

Hamlin said this system is fair for most students but has created a problem for student veterans. If the student veterans register for a group all together, with both seniors and freshmen, then they will be seated with other freshmen, likely in the upper deck.

“We will have a 31-year-old student veteran who is classified as a freshman, so he is sitting with 18-year-olds,” Hamlin said. “That is a problem for him. He does not go to the games.”

Hamlin said he went to UT’s box office first this past summer to see if he could work around UT’s current system. He said he was told that only spirit groups can get special seating.

Then Hamlin said he went to UT’s Athletics Department to try to get the Student Veterans Association classified as a spirit group. There Hamlin tried to contact Mack Brown, Texas football head coach, but Brown’s secretary referred Hamlin to others in the Athletics Department.

“We got a lot of sympathy but not a lot of action,” Hamlin said. “The Dean of Students has been working with us great. But when it gets outside of the Dean of Students, not a lot happens sometimes.”

The email Hamlin sent to Brown’s secretary was bounced around to many people, but no action was ever taken. Hamlin said conversations about the possibility of giving the Student Veterans Association special seating eventually died.

Nick Voinis, senior associate athletic director, said they could not help the student veterans because they approached them too late for this season.

When asked if TexasSports would be able to help the student veterans order tickets differently next year because of their concerns, Voinis said, “That’s the way all other students do it ... next year they can go online just like other students do and order them as a group.”

Currently Hamlin said as few as eight veteran students are sitting together at the football games. Hamlin said they are requesting seating for 30.

Attending football games together is one social activity Hamlin says the Student Veteran Association does to foster a bond between fellow veterans. Because of this, Hamlin said it is important that student veterans can sit together at football games.

“A good student life for a veteran is to be around other veterans,” Hamlin said. “But we can’t get that.”

Printed on Wednesday, October 17, 2012 as: Veterans struggle for game seating