Swipe Out Hunger provides meals for students

One in three college students across the country don’t know where their next meal is going to come from. The Swipe Out Hunger program aims to change that.

The Swipe Out Hunger Program is a national campaign to end food insecurity on college campuses. According to Haleigh West, the Service and Leadership Coordinator, “As staff and faculty, we do recognize that not every student is in the same situation, so this is kind of to put every student on the same level.”

“The logistics are the semester beforehand, students can donate their Flex Points,” said West. “And instead of using them for themselves, they can donate it to Swipe Out Hunger, and then our dining Services, converts those Flex Points into dining hall meals, that we then distribute to students who may be facing acute food insecurity.”

Students facing food insecurity may have a harder time focusing in class, or feeling like part of the campus community. “Food insecurity means that you are having to make the choice between textbooks and food, or you’re buying cheaper food that is maybe less healthy,” West said, “So Swipe Out Hunger’s goal is to limit acute food insecurity.”

“When students come in, we’re able to chat about what resources they know about, and what resources they don’t know about,” said West. “Then we’re able to give them four free meals in the dining hall to get them through the next few days.”

Swipe Out Hunger involves more than simply giving meals to students in need, the program also provides information on resources around all of Vermont. “We have a conversation about what their food planning looks like,” said West. “So every student that comes in gets a resource manual that lists all of the food pantries and food shelves in the state of Vermont, and its separated by county so the resources for Lamoille County, but also if they go home for the summer, and they go home for break, they have this whole list of resources… We provide them with all that information so we’re not just giving them four meals, and we see them again in the next month. We’re trying to set them up to succeed and give them the tools to do this on their own.”

The Swipe Out Hunger program also tries to get these students in touch with Salvation Farms, which “is a federally recognized non-profit with a mission to build increased resilience in Vermont’s food system through agricultural surplus management,” according to salvationfarms.org. “It’s a Vermont based organization that collects all of the produce that may not be able to be sold at stores” said West, “and they take it and distribute it to programs and individuals who may not be able to afford fresh produce.”

The Swipe Out Hunger campaign was brought to campus as part of an initiative to provide more services for students on campus. “SERVE is really trying to do more outreach for students on campus in terms of services. We do a lot of volunteering in the community and giving back in the community, but we also want to make sure we’re giving back to the students.”