The power of a meal swipe travels much further than the confines of a campus residential restaurant through the efforts of Swipe Out Hunger at UCLA.
The student organization, better known as Swipes, began at UCLA in 2009 and is a project within the USAC Community Service Commission with approximately 30 members. It is the inaugural chapter of what has become a national organization that spans 20 chapters at universities across the country.
During the tenth week of each quarter, the organization holds its Swipe Drive outside the dining halls where students can donate their unused meal swipes for that quarter. Students are able to donate as many swipes as they have available to the organization before their count resets for the following quarter. In 2015, the group collected more than 18,500 meal swipes.
With the donated swipes, the organization is able to maintain its campus-wide and community-based initiatives. It helps secure meal vouchers given to the Bruin Resource Center to distribute to food insecure students, and many of the swipes are also used to help supply the Community Programs Office Food Closet with food items available to students experiencing hunger and/or struggling to attain food due to financial hardships. Additionally, Swipes puts on its quarterly Sandwiches for Smiles event, which allows students to make sandwiches that are donated to organizations throughout Los Angeles including My Friend’s Place and Ocean Park Community Center (OPCC).
In regards to the fast-paced growth of the organization, Co-President Abby Lewis shared how much she enjoys seeing the organization’s ranks increase since her freshman year, and promised that Swipes will continue to innovate.
“We are constantly looking for new ways on how we can fight food insecurity,” she added.
In partnership with Food Forward, Swipes also visits the Pacific Palisades Farmers Market and Brentwood Farmers Market to ask for donations from the different vendors. The food collected is donated to support the CPO Food Closet, University Village and 580 Cafe.
With the University of California releasing a study that indicates 42% of students are food insecure, Swipe Out Hunger is not slowing down its efforts or initiatives anytime soon. Swipes recruits for Board positions during Fall Quarter and takes volunteers on a weekly basis to assist with food gleaning. The UCLA Volunteer Center Fellows are proud to award the Fall 2016 Mongelli Award for Civic Engagement to Swipe Out Hunger at UCLA for resourcefully fighting food insecurity.