Swipe It Forward program continues after pilot semester

Swipe It Forward, a program that collects meal swipe donations for students in need, continues after its pilot semester last spring.

According to Tufts Community Union (TCU) Senate Historian Jacqueline Chen, the program collects donations of meal swipes from students on meal plans as well as from departments at Tufts and distributes them to students in need.

“[Swipe It Forward is] where students who have extra meal swipes can donate to a meal bank where students who may not be able to afford food can take out of,” Chen, a junior, said.

This program is meant to help students at Tufts deal with food insecurity, according to TCU Diversity & Community Affairs Officer Shannon Lee.

“Anecdotally we know that food insecurity is a problem at Tufts,” Lee, a sophomore, said. “We don’t have concrete research because this university hasn’t conducted a survey, but we know that at the end of the year [there are] students asking their friends [for their] extra meal swipes.”

Chen said that students made full use of the meal bank last year.

“Last semester 949 students donated meal swipes. There were a total of 1760 meal swipes donated and by the end of April the meal bank was almost completely depleted so there definitely was demand for this to continue,” she said.

MJ Griego, a senior who has used the meal bank, said they found it very helpful.

“The meal bank is incredibly helpful for when I’m on campus for long periods, want to go to a dining hall with friends or just don’t have time to cook,” Griego told the Daily in an electronic message. “It really helps me as a low income student.”

While Lee considers last semester’s pilot a success, she explained that the program requires further development to meet the needs of as many students as possible.

“One of the biggest problems right now is to make sure that we are getting donations. And that we’re trying to do this with a more targeted outreach strategy, more tabling and better marketing materials,” Lee said.

Orsi Nagy, a sophomore who has donated to the program, said more people could donate to the program.

“As someone who is not on unlimited, I sometimes worry about meals. Swipe It Forward is a great start to addressing those worries and making sure people have enough to eat!” she told the Daily in an electronic message. “I haven’t utilized it myself, but it’s good to know that it’s available.”

According to Chen, the Swipe It Forward program expanded to include students of the School of the Museum of Fine Arts(SMFA) at Tufts as well.

“This semester, we wanted to expand this program to include SMFA students because … SFMA students are also considered a high needs population for this type of service,” Chen said.

Lee explained that the decision to expand has put strain on the program, which makes donation outreach especially important.

“One challenge we’ve had is sustaining donations especially because … the SMFA students … can’t donate. So now we have to compensate to serve another population without also getting donations from [that population],” Lee said.

Chen said that the initiative was started in part after Office for Student Success and Advising (OSSA) asked that TCU senators look into solving this issue.

The program involves close collaboration between TCU Senate, OSSA and Dining Services.

According to Lee, the donation period was extended by two weeks this semester and will end on Oct. 31. She explained that this extension will give students more time to donate meal swipes online.

Chen also explained that the outreach work is largely done by TCU senators.

“A lot of time and labor is being put into … tabling, publicizing on Facebook, [making] posters,” Chen said.

Patti Klos, director of dining and business services, explained that she believes that student-led outreach is central to the program.

“I believe a key element to the success of the Swipe It Forward Program is having peers reaching out to their peers on why it is important to support the initiative by donating meals and to create awareness,” she told the Daily in an email, “Tufts Dining can be a conduit, but will always need the support of student leaders to conduct outreach.”

Lee also noted that while Swipe It Forward has been a success, more needs to be done to address the causes of food insecurity at Tufts.

“[We need to be] making sure we are addressing the root causes of food insecurity on this campus. Swipe It Forward is a great part of the solution, but the broader question needs to be, ‘Why are students going hungry?’” Lee said.