Every college student knows school can be incredibly stressful; not knowing where your next meal will come from can add yet another layer of worry.
This is why Rachel Sumekh started Swipe Out Hunger, an organization that donates college students’ unused meal swipes to those in need. Swipe Out Hunger, originally known as “Swipes for the Homeless” was founded by Sumekh and a group of her friends from UCLA in 2009. It started small; Sumekh and her friends initially used their meal swipes to take out sandwiches, which they then delivered to homeless people in the L.A. area. By the end of the week, the team had donated 300 meals. Later, they joined forces with UCLA’s Dining Services to allow other students to donate their unused meal swipes to the homeless. The organization now boasts 20 chapters on college campuses across the U.S., from its birthplace at UCLA, all the way to University of Albany.
Food insecurity, the worry of where you will find your next meal, is a very real concern, both on and off college campuses. Swipe Out Hunger works to ensure that both the community within and outside college campuses don’t have to struggle with food insecurity. Their chapters donate to local organizations in order to support the off-campus community, but their main focus is on “food insecure college students.” Unused meal swipes sometimes become meal vouchers, which can be distributed to food insecure students through “the financial aid office or resource center.” Meal swipes can also be used to buy goods for the college food pantry, a place where students can come to pick up nonperishable items outside of the dining halls.
Within the City University of New York education system, approximately 40% of students have suffered from food insecurity. Black and Latino students, as well as students employed at least 20 hours per week, made up most of this demographic. In the University of California system, where Swipe Out Hunger began, it was found that about 25% of students reported skipping meals in order to save money.
Swipe Out Hunger isn’t the only organization aiming to change these statistics. There’s also the College and University Food Bank Alliance, or CUFBA. CUFBA supports “existing and emerging campus food banks.” It began as a collaboration between the Michigan State Student Food Bank and the Oregon State University Food Pantry, and now has 400 food banks on campuses all over the U.S..
Other organizations with similar missions to end food insecurity among college students include Campus Kitchens, an organization serving students at 58 schools nationwide, and the Food Recovery Network, which works to eliminate food waste on almost 200 U.S. campuses.
All of the organizations above are already thriving, but they are still looking to expand to more college campuses. If you or your friends are currently college students, or you’re just looking to give back to either your alma mater or a college in your area, consider clicking through the organizations linked above and starting a new chapter. A single campus chapter can feed hundreds of hungry students, and donate to the surrounding community as well.