Swipe Out Hunger Penn was inspired during my sophomore year at Penn when I was in an Academically Based Community Service class called Faculty/Student Collaborative Action Seminar: Urban University-Community Relations (URBS178). This class was taught by Dr. Ira Harkavy, and we were tasked with identifying a problem affecting Penn or the West Philadelphia community and then asked to propose an in-depth solution.
During one of our classes, we took a trolley tour of West Philadelphia. As we were driving, we noticed how the neighborhoods are truly food deserts—the streets were lined with dollar stores and hair salons. Other than the new Fresh Grocer, there was nowhere for people to buy fresh and nutritious food. On that day, we decided to focus our project on food insecurity in our communities.
What is Swipe Out Hunger?
So we decided to start a Swipe Out Hunger chapter on Penn's campus to educate about food insecurity and work towards combatting it as well. We worked with Penn Dining and Bon Appetít to come up with a mutually agreed upon Swipes model. That is, to allow students to donate their prepaid and unused meal swipes towards our cause. For the past few years, we have had two donation days a year, one per semester, where students can donate up to 5 meal swipes. Our first donation day of this academic year will take place on November 16 from 12 pm - 6 pm in 1920 Commons.
What Progress Has Been Made?
Over the past two years, students have donated a total of 3,500 meal swipes leading to $16,000 being donated to Philabundance, the largest food bank in the Delaware Valley. This year, we have decided to focus our Swipes efforts on food insecurity on Penn’s campus. Therefore, the meal swipes that students donate on November 16th will be reallocated to students who identify as high need and have run out of meal swipes. We realized that many students at Penn don’t realize that their classmates are food insecure. Too many students face the dilemma of whether to buy books, pay rent or buy food. In many cases, food becomes student's lowest priority. One in seven college students in the US struggles to afford their meals each day.
We are so excited by the response from the Penn community over the past two years. There have been countless students who are not on meal plans who have asked us how they can get involved with our program. It is for this reason that we have hosted other events such as profit shares with local businesses and volunteer days to engage a larger population of the Penn community. On November 17th, Swipes will be partnering with Spoon UPenn to host a bake sale to benefit Swipe Out Hunger Penn.
We hope to see everyone on November 16th and 17th!