A new initiative is available on the GET mobile app to help students struggling with food insecurity. The feature is called “Donate a Meal,” and according to an email sent to the student body on Nov. 1, 2021, it can be found at the bottom of the GET mobile main page. Much of the preparation and persistent advocacy for the initiative is due in large part to several Colgate students involved with Swipe Out Hunger, a national non-profit organization dedicated to addressing hunger among college students.
Students who have purchased meal plans that are looking to help their classmates and assist with food insecurity can select either guest meals from the premier plan or meals from their block plan. According to the Nov. 1 email, students can enter the number of meals they wish to allocate to students and click the “Donate” button. Students looking for meals can apply for emergency support via a Google form. According to the form, students who fill out the required questions will be contacted within 2 business days about their request and the number of meal swipes available based on the level of donations. Students have the option of giving additional information to see if the University can allocate supplemental support.
Joelle Marx ‘20, along with senior Erica Friedman and juniors Stephanie Skura, Amber Hufford and Dassie Spivack were among the group of students responsible for incentivizing the initiative’s recent launch after it was initially brought to Colgate’s campus during the 2019-2020 academic year. According to Hufford and Skura, Friedman shouldered much of the burden of pushing the program forward after the outbreak of COVID-19 put its progress on hold, and continued to garner additional student support for the project.
“Along with Steph and myself, Erica was a member of Challah for Hunger, a club oriented around food insecurity and raising awareness and money for hunger,” Hufford said. “Since she already knew we had a passion for creating awareness and making a difference in regards to food insecurity, Erica brought up the food swipe donation program to us, which was already in the works.”
After Marx graduated, it was clear that the project needed a group of dedicated underclassmen to continue the important work she and Freidman had started.
“Amber and I knew Erica from other various activities on campus, and she knew that we might be interested in helping with the initiative, so she reached out to us,” Skura said. “Soon after Amber and I became involved in the initiative, we began doing what we could do to push forward and implement this project that Erica and Joelle had worked so hard on.”
In addition to her early involvement in the project, Skura also spoke to the importance of the food swipe program, as well as to the ultimate goal of the students who worked to see it through:
“At many other schools, Swipe Out Hunger is a national organization that has seen immense success with the utilization of their swipe donation programs, and so this inspired us to continue pushing forward the initiative,” Skura said. “Even if the program helps one student, it was always worth it to us because of how important it is for all students to be able to focus on their classes and extracurriculars, rather than where they will get their next meal.”
During the 2020-2021 academic school year, Freidman and the other founding members led several meetings, with the help of Dean of Students Dorsey Spencer, to get other organizations on campus involved in the project, including the Africana, Latin, Asian, and Native American (ALANA) Cultural Center, the Shaw Wellness Center and the Max A. Shacknai Center for Outreach, Volunteerism, and Education (COVE).
As support and planning for the initiative progressed, given its scope and the extensive time and energy required to make it work, the student leaders decided to take a step back. During the summer of 2021, Spencer took responsibility for the majority of the food swipe donation program, and saw it through to its completion.
“Since Dean Spencer took over the initiative, it has become less student-run. However, we still help to publicize and contribute in any way we can to the success of this program,” Skura said.
Resident District Manager of Dining Services Don Stanwick shared his reaction towards the new initiative, which primarily involved coordination between students and Spencer, with the support of Dining Services.
“It’s about trying to support students who face food insecurity problems, or students who struggle to get any food at all during meal times throughout their day. So the goal is to find a way to address food insecurity on campus,” Stanwick said.
Although the University most recently advertised the Donate a Meal program in its Nov. 1 email to the student body, Stanwick confirmed that the service has been available for students since the backend of the Spring 2021 semester. While the program is new to campus, several students have advocated for its addition to Dining Services for years.
When students must choose their meal plan through the University website each semester, many swipes end up being forgotten or “wasted.” On the other hand, many students choose not to buy a meal plan or opt for a meal plan with fewer swipes because of cost. The university’s most expensive meal plan, or Premier Plan, costs $4,014 per semester and is required of all first and second-year students in addition to any students living in traditional residence halls. The plan includes unlimited dining access at Frank Dining Hall, the O’Connor Campus Center (Coop), and the C-store, as well as one meal swipe per dining period at Chobani at the Heiber Café and Donovan’s Pub. Other meal plans include the ‘Gate Membership, which grants juniors and seniors 10 meals a week at dining halls for $2,672 a semester, the Maroon Membership, which grants eight meals a week for $2,238 and the Raider Membership or Block Plan, giving students 70 meal swipes in total for $976.
Recent advertising efforts have been aimed at boosting the number of donated meals, and Stanwick is hopeful that those messages to the student body will encourage more students to put their unused meal swipes to greater use.
“So right now, as of [Nov. 4], we’ve had a total of 35 meals donated. And it’s actually run through the university itself, not out of dining services. But we are gearing up to support the program, and we strongly encourage people to donate meals, because it’s a great program,” Stanwick said. “You never know when you might be a person in need of a program like this one to help you through a tough time, so we really just really encourage people to donate for those reasons.”
First-year student Meghan Subak expressed her appreciation for the positive effects of the initiative, as both a way to support students in need and as a means of reducing food waste.
“I think it’s so great to see Colgate putting in this effort. I’m sure there are so many unused meal swipes at the end of every term that just sort of get tossed out,” Subak said. “It’s a perfect solution, as it gives those students meals while also not letting the unused swipes go to waste. I hope Colgate pushes it a bit more to let people know what it is — I barely even knew what it was until recently.”
First year student Molly Pritchard also expressed support over the initiative and hopes it becomes the first of many more humanitarian programs at Colgate.
“I think it’s great to see Colgate taking steps towards helping more of their student body in this way, and hopefully initiatives like this continue and grow in popularity,” Pritchard said. “I think Colgate has the means to do a lot more like this, and I hope this is a success, so that they see there’s a desire to help others in the community.”