By Victoria Konicki
Swipe It Forward, a new meal swipe donation program at Worcester State University, collected 300 meal swipes to help students struggling with food insecurity this semester, and 266 have been used.
Swipe it Forward, which was started by the Hunger Outreach Team in a partnership with Chartwells, provides students in need with donated guest meal swipes that allow them to enter the dining hall on campus.
34 percent of Worcester State University is food insecure, which means one in every three students experiences some level of food insecurity, said Dr. Adam Saltsman, Assistant Director of the Urban Action Institute, whose SNAP Practicum course created the idea for the program. The program was inspired by Framingham State University’s swipe donation program, said Serena Jaskolka, a senior CSD major at Worcester State.
“It’s a start to addressing a symptom of their possible food insecurity,” Saltsman said.
Chartwells, the company in charge of campus dining, decided to partner with the Hunger Outreach Team in part because of “Serena’s passion,” and because there are students struggling even with a meal plan, said Denis Brown, senior director of dining service at Worcester State. Jaskolka reached out to Brown and Marketing Director Meghan Thulin about the issue of food insecurity on campus and starting the Swipe It Forward program.
“Clearly there’s an issue going on,” said Brown. “We recognize we need to help out in any way we can.”
Over 300 meal swipes were donated, but a limit of 300 was imposed by Chartwells that meant any donations over 300 were returned to the donator, Jaskolka said.
Donations were accepted for two weeks during the beginning of the semester. Many students donated their guest swipes after seeing the program advertised outside of the dining hall.
“As college students, we have enough to worry about. Food shouldn’t be one of those [concerns],” said Matthew Morrison, a junior at Worcester State who donated five swipes.
Phil Sekayi, a sophomore at Worcester State, changed to a smaller meal plan to save money and found that he ran out of meal swipes faster than he expected.
“I have this month and next month to get by with trying to get into the pod once a day,” Sekayi said.
Sekayi does not have any dining dollars either, so he has to use what is left of his paycheck after bills to buy food.
“I had to go to the market and spend the last $14 I had on bread, jelly, and milk for sandwiches for the week. Usually, I have been making sandwiches for lunch,” Sekayi said.
Sekayi was not aware of the program’s purpose, but now he believes it would benefit him so that he would not have to spend all of his remaining money on food.
In order to obtain these donated swipes, a food insecure student can contact Thea’s Pantry at firstname.lastname@example.org, and after providing a student ID number, Thea’s Pantry will put seven meal swipes on the student’s OneCard through Chartwells’ system.
“It’s there for the students,” Jaskolka said. “We want to break down the stigma behind food insecurity.”