A newly proposed plan to address student hunger at Rowan University is in the early stages of development in order to move forward with a Swipe Out Hunger initiative on campus.
This program is a result of the collaborative efforts of Penny McPherson Myers, the associate vice president for diversity and organizational effectiveness, and dining and card services.
The Swipe Out Hunger program, founded in 2010 at UCLA, is a nonprofit organization trying to make significant strides toward addressing the issue of student hunger among college students. Their program was first brought to McPherson Myers’ attention through research into successful initiatives that other campuses had implemented in order to combat food waste and food insecurity.
“In November of 2017, the Student Hunger on Campus research team at Rowan University conducted a survey of all 14,000 students 18 years or over,” McPherson Myers said. “And 2,055 students or 15 percent responded showing that about one in two, 48 percent, Rowan undergraduate students experience food insecurity and almost one in ten students reported that they ‘did not eat for a whole day’ because money was short, some several times over the last 30 days.”
McPherson Myers explained that in acknowledging there are students on campus who experience food insecurity, options need to be explored in order to make sure students are receiving “adequate and nutritional food” daily.
The Swipe Out Hunger program has already partnered with over 73 campuses from 28 different states, featuring their primary program “The Swipe Drive.” This program allows students to donate any extra meal swipes to fellow students in need. The structure and application, however, can differ depending on the university.
Previous success has been seen on Rutgers University’s campus located in Newark. The program was established by Ellen Daley, the director of the campus pantry and health services nutritionist, in spring 2018 and has grown continuously since implementation.
“We’ve been open for two years here and this last semester we had over 1,600 visits to our pantry and gave out over 13,000 pounds of food,” Daley said. “This semester we haven’t gotten to the end yet to be able to compare, but we’re definitely growing by at least another 20 percent over that.”
Each semester, through the food service company, a pancake breakfast night kickoff is hosted during a de-stress fest held on campus. At midnight, after the kickoff, students are reminded of issues involving student hunger on campus and allowed to donate meals swipes.
“I would hope the numbers continue to increase because we know there’s many more students out there who are in need of food who are not coming here,” Daley said. “But when you think of a food pantry, we’re really thinking about a Band-Aid to another problem.”
Daley noted that the food pantry itself is not the ultimate solution for people who do not have the resources to live, that it is simply “patchwork to get people through a temporary problem.” What is needed is a solution in order to create a living environment where a struggle for food is not an issue.
McPherson Myers stated that currently there has not been any significant movement regarding the Swipe Out Hunger program on Rowan’s campus and that there has not been much progress.
“It is our goal to have a meeting with various stakeholders to gain buy-in before the end of the semester to begin planning for Swipe Out Hunger,” McPherson Myers said.
Despite the lack of progress, McPherson Myers seems sure of the program’s potential and its ability to allow students to show their support by donating their meal swipes.
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