New program tackles food insecurity on campus

Students can donate unused guest swipes to others with less food access.

Max Chao

Students with meal plans at the University of Minnesota can now donate their unused meal swipes to help hungry classmates, thanks to a national movement and an ambitious student.

The program, called Swipe Out Hunger, will let students donate guest swipes from their meal plan every semester to food-insecure students. It is set to launch at the end of October.

As part of the program, a three-week donation drive will be held in dining halls each semester. In that time, students will be able to donate up to 10 meals.

Food-insecure students must register with Boynton Health Services to be eligible for the program. Boynton will distribute meals on a case-by-case basis in increments of five meals. 

The program will be evaluated after this semester for potential future implementation, said Amy Keran, University director of contract administration.

“We’re partnered with Boynton to help serve students that are either in distress, have food insecurity problems or are trying to determine where their next meal is coming … to help relieve some of that pressure,” Keran said. 

The program is being spearheaded by junior David Begelman, who grew interested in the issue during his freshman year and started discussions with Swipe Out Hunger his sophomore year.

“I looked at the idea that ramen noodles on a college diet isn’t enough,” Begelman said. “We need more, and utilizing the resources we have right now is the best way to overcome this.”

About 17 percent of University students worry about buying enough food before their money runs out, according to a 2015 Boynton Health survey, and 10 percent report food shortages.

Swipe Out Hunger is a national movement on over 26 college campuses, taking different forms on each one. The University of Minnesota’s implementation is the first with Aramark, the University’s supplier, he said.

Nutritious U food pantry and the Minnesota Student Association have helped by promoting the initiative, Begelman said.

“Food security is something that we are passionate about, and I think that any time anyone has a project on campus that we’re passionate about and that aligns with [MSA’s] mission and platform … we’re happy to [support it],” said James Farnsworth, campus life committee director for MSA. 

On Tuesday, MSA is meeting with Swipe Out Hunger to choose future promotion strategies for the program, he said.

“I’m extremely excited to see where this goes,” Begelman said. “It’s been a lot of work, but actually seeing that this program is going to be enacted in such a short amount of time is incredible.”