Student Government is entering its second semester of Swipe Out Hunger, a program designed to provide selected students with meal swipes at on-campus dining locations if they cannot afford meals for each week.
“Food insecurity is something that, unfortunately, doesn’t get talked about enough. I think that there are quite a few students who don’t have enough to eat or enough healthy food to eat,” Jabari Bodrick, the associate director of the Leadership and Service Center, said.
This semester, Swipe Out Hunger will be giving 640 meals to 40 students who demonstrate a need for the program. Carolina Food Co., a subsidy of the university’s food service provider Aramark, donated 470 of these meal swipes.
“We just want to do our part to ensure no student is hungry whether that be providing donated meal plans for students facing food insecurities or providing employment opportunities for them,” Faren Alston, Aramark’s marketing manager, said in an email.
Swipe Out Hunger provides students with 16 meal swipes, one for each week of the semester. In spring 2019, students donated 400 meal swipes to give to students in need of them, feeding 25 students who participated in the program.
Speaker of the Student Senate Davis Latham is currently heading the program and said they target students who miss meals intermittently. He said students can also get meals by going to the Gamecock Pantry and through employment with Aramark, where one free meal is provided to students for each shift they work in addition to pay for that shift. Students are chosen for Swipe Out Hunger through an anonymous application process online.
“In an ideal world, we wouldn’t have to evaluate anything, 'cause we would have enough swipes to give, but at this moment that tends to be the best way we think of doing it,” Latham said. “You can’t give more than two students every meal paid for.”
According to the USC Needs Assessment Survey in 2017, 36.06% of undergraduate students reported they skipped or cut back the size of their meals because they did not have enough money for food.
“Depending on where you are on campus, the closest grocery stores are Food Lion and Publix, and both of those are more than a mile away,” Bodrick said. “If you don’t have reliable transportation or you just can’t afford a ride-share or a taxi or whatever the situation may be, you may not even be able to get off campus to get those things.”
Latham said he hopes Swipe Out Hunger will continue and eventually turn into its own entity outside of Student Government, where it can be the priority of that organization.
“Most people don’t understand the number of students on campus who are doing this,” Latham said. “My hope is that students will create additional programs and be able to use some of the advantages that many of us have to help other people.”
The Daily Gamecock is running a survey about student insecurity on campus. If you have experienced food insecurity, please fill out this form.