College food-service provider Sodexo North America is teaming up with Swipe Out Hunger, a nonprofit working to end food insecurity on campuses, to create “Meal Swipe Banks” at 13 institutions. Through the pilot program, Sodexo will provide two free meals at dining halls for each full-time meal plan sold, an estimated 25,000 free meals annually for students experiencing food insecurity.
Student hunger “is really more than eating pizza and ramen,” Leila Cosca, sustainability manager at Sodexo told WTOP. “It is about skipping meals. It is about not having access to nutritious foods. It is something that really affects students’ success.”
To implement the new initiative, Sodexo and Swipe Out Hunger will work with campus officials who are already engaged with low-income students likely to benefit from free meals. To protect those students’ privacy, the “safety-net” dining plan cards will look exactly like regular dining plan cards.
Sodexo says that, pending the pilot program’s completion, it plans to make the Meal Swipe Banks available at college campuses across the nation in the 2020-21 academic year.
‘The first large-scale program of its kind’
“Over the past year, we have been at the table with Sodexo working to develop a thoughtful solution to hunger on campus,” Rachel Sumekh, CEO of Swipe Out Hunger, said in a statement. “This program is the first large-scale program of its kind within the food service industry, and we know it will make a significant impact on students’ lives and their overall well-being. We’ve learned to never underestimate the power of a meal swipe.”
Swipe Out Hunger has facilitated more than 1.7 million meals across 80 college campuses since the organization first launched at UCLA in 2010. Georgetown University’s chapter of Swipe Out Hunger recently held its second Meal Swipe Drive in partnership with the university’s InterHall Council. The drive received 1,092 meal swipe donations, double the donations received during the first event in the spring.