By Alyssa Martin
Swipe Out Hunger (SOH) is a leading nonprofit addressing hunger among college students. What started with a group of friends out of UCLA in 2010 is now a national movement spanning across more than 130 colleges, and has served 2 million nutritious meals to date.
Their website, which includes a blog, states, “As colleges and universities around the country began to close due to COVID-19, thousands of students suddenly found themselves in financial, academic, and personal crisis. The pandemic has exacerbated existing challenges that low-income students face. With the economic impacts growing exponentially, we need to support students to ensure they are not going hungry, becoming homeless, or being forced to drop out of school.”
So how does it work? SOH’s flagship program, “The Swipe Drive,” encourages students with extra dining hall meal swipes to donate them to a peer in need. Their diligent efforts to outline and grow anti-hunger programs are specific to the unique needs of each campus community.
John Jay College of Criminal Justice student Jessica Rosario is a CUNY Student Navigator and one of four CUNY students advocating for Swipe Out Hunger. She reached out to Queensborough Community College to bring forth awareness.
In an email interview Jessica Rosario details exactly how this program works, what it offers its CUNY students, and how to get involved. “Swipe Out Hunger is to launch the CUNY Student Food Navigator Program, a digital referral service for any CUNY student who may need help accessing food or other necessities. I have been trained to work with my peers 1:1 to connect them with SNAP benefits and campus/community resources, thus reducing the stigma often associated with seeking assistance. Swipe Out Hunger is a member of HRA’s Provider Portal community, and our cohort of student navigators have received intensive SNAP enrollment training led by the Food Bank of New York City. With around 50% of CUNY students reporting food insecurity (and those are pre-pandemic numbers!), it is vital for students to be aware that they may now be eligible for SNAP under Gov. Cuomo’s expanded eligibility which is estimated to now cover 75,000 students.”
Rachel Sumekh, Founder & CEO of Swipe Out hunger, started this initiative with inspiration and powered it with passion. With a mission to end student hunger in the next ten years, Sumekh understands “the power of a meal.” In the ‘2020 IMPACT REPORT, Feeding Our Future”, her organization challenges college institutions to reevaluate their commitment to their students. The need for support has grown tremendously through this aching pandemic.
Swipe Out Hunger’s efforts did not stop there. After COVID-19 shut down the economy and due to staggering numbers in unemployment, Swipe Out Hunger’s efforts has allowed them to employ Student Navigators. Many of whom were laid off during the pandemic.
Students seeking support are encouraged to visit Swipe Out Hunger’s website, and fill out this form: CUNY Food Navigator Program | Swipe Out Hunger -Swipe Out Hunger (swipehunger.org). After you submit your form, a welcoming CUNY Student will personally reach out to assist you with the SNAP application process and share other food programs in New York City.