Whether it's a lack of funds or a depletion of meal swipes, students can find themselves in need of a meal from time to time. Such is the case at Columbia University where a coalition of students and university organizations have developed a new meal sharing system.
Working as a meal swipe food bank of sorts, Columbia's Emergency Meal Fund enables students with leftover meal swipes to donate up to six meals each semester to a fellow student in need of a swipe. Likewise, students in need of meals may receive up to six meal vouchers from peers each semester, no questions asked.
Per a report from the Columbia Spectator, a combined effort between Columbia’s First-Generation Low-Income Partnership (FLIP), senior administrators and students has developed the Emergency Meal Fund and a new app called Swipes. Using their meal swipes at any of three, buffet-style dining halls on campus, some Columbia students have come up a little short at times and in need of a meal swipe. Meal plans available to Columbia students offer either two, four or six guest meal swipes per semester.
Accompanying the initiative is a student-developed called Swipes. Released this September, the app is designed to match students in need of a meal swipe with those willing to donate one. The students behind the app were inspired by a Columbia University Meal Share Facebook group, which was created by FLIP to help students in need of meals to find free food on campus or connect with students with extra swipes.
The app works like this: Anyone with a Columbia.edu email address can sign up for the service either as a “Swiper” or a “Receiver.” When a Receiver needs a meal swipe, they enter the time they’d like to eat and the dining hall they want to attend. A notification is then sent out to all Swipers currently in the designated dining hall to obtain a match. If no Swipers are available in the hall, a broader notification is sent out to Swipers available across campus.
When a Swiper and a Receiver match, they receive a photo of one other, as well as optional notes that the Receiver might have to include to assist in meeting up. The Swiper and Receiver then meet at the dining hall entrance to conduct the meal transaction.
Since the program's inception, there have been 18 requests to receive a meal swipe, with student Swipers donating 580 meal swipes in total.