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“Swipe Out Hunger” initiative adds more campus chapters

Student-created initiative converts leftover swipes into meals for students in need

A program started at UCLA is enabling students to donate leftover meal swipes and points to help combat both local and student hunger initiatives, and has seen increased adoption on campuses across the U.S.

According to a University of California release, the Swipe Out Hunger initiative was the brainchild of two students at UCLA in 2009, who saw that fellow students often left unused points on their meal plan while hunger problems both in the community and on campus persisted. The solution? Provide a way for students to use leftover funds to purchase to-go boxes of food from the dining hall that could then be redistributed to those in need.

Now a nonprofit, Swipe Out Hunger has grown to include 20 campus chapters across the U.S., including four University of California campuses. There are plans to expand to all nine undergraduate campuses in the state as part of UC’s Global Food Initiative. The program was also named a 2012 White House “Champion of Change,” and has now served over 1.3 million meals to date.

According to the company’s website, the initiative has strategically shifted focus to on-campus hunger after six years of operation. Swipe Out Hunger has added six new campus chapters this year with the University Notre Dame among the latest batch of campuses to participate.

Swipes chapter leaders typically set up tables outside of dining halls or in common areas on campus, and invite students to donate their excess meals swipes or dollars. Students can donate by providing their name, ID number, number of meals and a signature.

The number of donated meal swipes are then converted into pounds of food based on agreements with the university, and are then donated the surrounding community. Alternatively on campus, the meal swipes are — again based on an agreement with the university — used to purchase meal vouchers. These vouchers are then distributed to students in need by a trusted campus administrative office.

Campuses using the Meal Voucher Program convert a certain number of the collected swipes into meal vouchers, with every voucher providing a student with access into a campus dining hall or eatery. Vouchers are typically distributed through a partnership with an office on campus that already works with students in need, such as the financial aid office or resource center.

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