This initiative will allow students who self-identify as food insecure to request additional meal swipes via a Meal Swipe Bank. During the fall semester, the donation bank is being established based on donations from Emmanuel faculty and staff. For the spring 2020 semester, students will be able to donate a limited number of their meal swipes to the bank as well.
Students will be able to request up to five additional meal swipes on the Fenway Card per semester. The process is confidential and aims to aid members of the student body who self-identify as food insecure in a confidential manner.
An individual who is food insecure does not have reliable access to enough affordable and nutritious food. Recent studies have shown that approximately 45% of college students in United States self-identify as food insecure.
The effort to bring attention to the challenge of food insecurity on Emmanuel's campus has been a student-led collaboration with faculty and staff members. Kai Uehara '20, who took the lead in establishing the program, has been instrumental in the implementation of initiatives to modify dining experiences on campus over the past two years. As an education major, he strives to improve these types of issues in the classroom.
"Making sure that things are equitable for all students is a big passion of mine," said Uehara. "The concept that some of my fellow students are not able to meet their nutritional needs because of finances is obviously egregious, and I was fortunate enough to be in a position that gave me the opportunity to make a difference. I'm glad that I saw the implementation of this program through."
Swipe-It-Forward offers another example of how Emmanuel students demonstrate a clear understanding of the mission of Emmanuel and the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur by applying what they have learned in the classroom to implement positive change on campus. Assistant Dean of Mission and Ministry Deirdre Bradley-Turner emphasizes the clear connection between the core mission of Emmanuel and this new program.
"Our mission and dedication to social justice and service is directly connected to the fact that we are a Sisters of Notre Dame school," she said. "We focus on food access for the greater community through our work with the Urban Food Project, but it became apparent that that this is an issue on our [own] campus for students. What better way to use our knowledge around food justice access and learn how it presents and looks differently for a college campus by providing meals for our own population."
Associate Professor of Political Science Adam Silver is one of the advisors for the Sustainability Committee. He hopes that from this initial step the community can work to further alleviate the strain on those students who are food insecure.
"We want it to be a sustainable program. Ideally, this would look like setting up a bank that functions seamlessly," said Dr. Silver. "This bank would allow students to donate meal swipes to support their fellow students, while faculty and staff will be able to donate monetarily. The goal is to get to the point where we have a self-sustaining and self-perpetuating program in which we can help alleviate food insecurity for students in some capacity."
The Swipe-It-Forward Initiative is the first step to addressing food insecurity on campus. In the coming months, students and faculty will continue to work together on improving the program in order to reach a wider range of student needs.
"Our long-term goal is to give students the opportunity to donate unused meal swipes," said Uehara. "We also want to work with students who we identify as chronically food insecure to address their needs and help them to achieve maximum success during their time at Emmanuel."