New student group looks to provide students with ways to donate extra meal points
A new student group is encouraging students to find ways to donate extra meal points to purchase food for families in need.
Swipe Out Hunger—a new group to Washington University, but a national organization—works to promote hunger awareness on college campuses and helps students donate unused meal points to provide food for those in need.
“We believe that if we can come up with a strategic plan, we can give students a relatively easy method to use their meal points to donate and get food to feed the hungry. That’s our final goal,” Mukund Murari, a junior and the vice president of marketing for Swipe Out Hunger, said.
The group announced that it will work closely with the Gephardt Institute’s PB&Joy Food Drive and hopes that this initial collaboration with PB&Joy will only be the beginning of various partnerships across the University that will educate students on issues of hunger and allow them be part of the solution.
While both the University and dining contractor Bon Appetit are supportive of Swipe Out Hunger and the PB&Joy drive, they believe that students will be able to make more of an impact by donating money directly to charities or purchasing food at off-campus supermarkets where prices are cheaper. Due to the nature of stores like Paws & Go on campus and the University’s meal point system, they said, donations don’t go as far monetarily as they would at larger bulk stores.
“Paws & Go is not a grocery store. The buying power of Bon Appetit is not very good, and often the items that they buy, because they’re purchased at such small quantities, come at a price comparable to what you would find at a grocery store,” dining services manager Paul Schimmele said.
In addition to the PB&Joy drive, Swipe Out Hunger hopes to provide students with other opportunities to donate in the near future. However, while chapters at other universities have allowed students to directly donate unused meal points to fight hunger, the University’s unique declining balance system makes this model unfeasible for the Washington University community.
“We really wanted students to feel that they had the opportunity to utilize their extra meal points in a way that isn’t splurging at Ibby’s or purchasing extra meals for friends,” Eileen Bayer, sophomore and founder of the University’s chapter of Swipe Out Hunger, said.
As Schimmele explained, many other universities use a swipe per meal option in which students get a certain number of meals per week. Generally this system leaves 12-15 percent of meal swipes unused. By comparison, Dining Services estimates that less than 1 percent of meal points go unused every year. Further, there are several legal issues, such as meal plans being tax-exempt, which prevent students from directly donating meal points.
Despite this setback, Swipe Out Hunger hopes to work with Dining Services and other campus partners to find ways for students to choose how to spend extra meal points.
“What we really want to do moving forward is having a can of beans, a can of fruit and bread and say ‘For five meal points you feed a family today.’ Then, there would be a different bundle that would relate to a family for three days…with this plan, students can really understand the impact they’re making,” Bayer said.