SwipeShare will transfer donated guest swipes to students facing food insecurity
UA and DSL launches program in response to CASE survey
The Undergraduate Association and Division of Student Life recently launched a program called SwipeShare, aimed at alleviating food insecurity issues at MIT. The program allows students who are on meal plans to donate their guest swipes for usage by students who are facing food insecurity problems.
Food insecurity, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is defined by a lack of consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life.
This new program was prompted by a combination of anecdotal reports and a recent study conducted by the student group Class Awareness, Support, and Equality (CASE). The CASE study found that 11.6% of respondents have been unable to afford food at some point.
Students who wish to donate guest swipes can visit the website studentlife.mit.edu/swipeshare. After logging in with certificates, they can view the number of guest swipes they have remaining for the semester and select how many of those guest swipes they would like to donate.
The swipes are available for usage by both undergraduate and graduate students — undergraduate students who wish to receive guest swipes should talk to a dean in the Student Support Services Office; graduate students should contact Naomi Carton at email@example.com.
These services are provided discretely and flexibly. DSL Senior Associate Dean David Randall said in an interview with The Tech, “We want the bar to be low … so there’s not a lot of paperwork. We’re not looking for an application. We want you to come in and tell us what your need is, and we can figure out a way to help.” DSL Direction of Communications Matthew Bauer added in an interview with The Tech, “A request for help will not go through a complex process. Rather, it’s a conversation between two people. We want students to feel comfortable approaching DSL staff for help, and to know that their request will be handled with discretion and care.”
Furthermore, students don’t need to be of a certain socioeconomic background or receiving a certain amount of financial aid to qualify for the meal swipes. UA Vice President Alexa Martin said in the interview, “It doesn’t matter who you are — any student can face food insecurity, so any student who goes to S3 and expresses they’re facing this difficulty can get the meal swipes.”
Martin also noted that student meal plans include around 10,000 total guest swipes each semester and around 4,000 of those remain unused.
DSL Executive Director for Administration Peter Cummings said in an interview with The Tech, “What’s really critical here is that we get students to donate … Out of the ways in which MIT students can help other MIT students, I think this is one of the most elegant ideas.”
In the future, the UA and DSL are hoping to expand the SwipeShare program so that students can donate any meal swipes as opposed to just guest swipes. Currently, because meal swipes expire at the end of each week, students cannot donate these regular swipes. However, the DSL is currently working to renegotiate the meal plan programs to include roll-over meals. This change is projected to come into effect next fall and could help facilitate an expansion of the SwipeShare program.
The DSL also has and is working on several other initiatives to support students experiencing issues with financial insecurity. One example is the existing emergency grants program — students in need of money for any variety of reasons, such as food, winter clothing, or an emergency trip home, can contact S3 (for undergraduate students) or Naomi Carton (for graduate students) for support. Other programs include the Food Insecurity Solutions Committee, which makes recommendations to address food insecurity on campus, and the Accessing Resources at MIT Committee, which emerged as a response to the CASE survey and will work to address economic insecurity for students more broadly.
The UA and DSL encourage students to get involved in similar initiatives by joining groups on campus, such as CASE, that are focused on addressing social inequality. Additionally, any students who have feedback or questions about existing or potential food insecurity programs can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Vice President and Dean for Student Life Suzy Nelson concluded in an email to The Tech, “The credit for this great idea goes to student leaders, who teamed up with DSL staff and Bon Appetit to establish a creative and caring program. There’s more to do to address food insecurity among students, but SwipeShare is a solid first step in the right direction.”