It looks like all those unused meal swipes this semester didn’t go to waste after all.
Earlier this month, Penn presented a cheque to Philabundance, a local hunger relief organization, for the $7,291.25 that was gathered from the Swipe Out Hunger Campaign. Between 800 and 900 Penn students participated in the campaign, which was able to garner a grand total of 1,535 unused meal swipes during its set donation days.
The campaign — which had its pilot run this semester — was the brainchild of rising College juniors Liza Lansing and Jessie Abrams, who partnered with Penn Dining and Penn’s food service provider Bon Appetit to allow students to “donate” their unused meal swipes. For each of the donated unused swipes, Bon Appetit gave Philabundance $4.75.
This semester there were two donation days — March 25 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and April 28 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. — during which students could could donate up to two meal swipes.
Abrams and Lansing were inspired to create the program after taking an academically based community service urban studies class taught by Ira Harkavy in which they were challenged to find a problem in Penn or the Philadelphia community and create a solution. Although implementing the solution was not a part of the class, Abrams and Lansing went forward with their idea and were supported by Dr. Harkavy in helping their vision come to fruition. They are extremely pleased with the results.
“We’ve exceeded our expectations,” Lansing said. “On the first donation day we had [only] hoped for 500 swipes donated and got 900 and on the second donation day — which was only two hours — we got more than 500 swipes.”
Although some students expressed that they would have liked to see more donation days and would have liked to donate more meal swipes, Abrams and Lansing mentioned that the campaign had to be plausible for both students and the University administration. Although Penn Dining is supportive of the cause, they have a limited budget, which is why the number of donation days and number of swipes was capped.
Nevertheless, Lansing and Abrams are appreciative of the mass support from the University and students and hope to expand the Swipe Out Hunger Campaign in the coming years.
“We have been thrilled with the response of the student body and are looking forward to only growing the program and offering ways for students not on a meal plan to get involved as well,” Abrams said.
Lansing and Abrams hope to establish a Hunger Awareness Week next year, culminating in a meal swipe donation day, with different activities each day of the week to engage students. Possible activities include canned food drives, marathons, events with guest speakers and trips to perform various volunteer activities at Philabundance.
In addition, Abrams and Lansing hope that the campaign will be expanded to other schools as well. They have already been approached by students from Wake Forest University and University of Michigan, who asked for advice on setting up Swipe Out Hunger Chapters at their own colleges.
“A lot of Penn’s mission is civic engagement and engaging in the community you’re a part of. Swipe Out Hunger comes right down to the heart of that,” Abrams said. “We’re setting up a form where students can engage in the community really easily.”