How Clark Students Can Help Their Food Insecure Peers

Sarah Vacca, Nazun Cohort Member

According to a 2020 study done by the Hope Center, an estimated 29 percent of students at 4-year colleges are struggling with food insecurity, or a lack of stable access to nutritious food. This means that almost 3 in 10 Clark students are struggling to afford food every day. The COVID-19 pandemic has only made things harder for food insecure individuals as well. 

Why Feeding Food Insecure Students is Important 

Students need to be fed in order to improve their levels of cognition. This leads to higher GPAs and improves graduation rates which is better for schools. When colleges and universities take responsibility for feeding their students struggling with food insecurity, fewer students will need to utilize government assistance programs, leaving more resources for others and leading to positive effects on the economy. 

The FIRM (Food Insecurity Resistance Movement) Pantry on Clark’s campus does amazing work feeding students. Unfortunately, they are under intense strain. They refill the pantry every weekend with $800 worth of food that runs out by the following Friday. This demonstrates the high need of students at our school. Clark needs to create more programs to support food insecure students in order to lessen the burden on FIRM. 

Swipe Out Hunger & Meal Swipe Donation Drives

This semester, Clark University partnered with Swipe Out Hunger to offer emergency meal cards and run a meal swipe donation drive. These emergency meal cards are offered at the University Center Information Desk and give students one swipe into the dining hall. These swipes given to the students are taken from a “swipe bank” or a collection of swipes. While Sodexo allocated 3,000 swipes to the swipe bank at the beginning of the year, these swipes were running out by March. In response to the unprecedented need, Clark gave a one-time donation of $15,000 to food security programs, including the swipe bank. 

The swipe drive was run by Clark Nazun who tabled every Friday starting March 18th to collect swipes from students on meal plans. To donate, students had to be on a qualifying meal plan and fill out an electronic form. The Dean of Students office then transferred the swipes from the student to the swipe bank. Students in need were then given these swipes through the DOS office. As of April 19th, Nazun had collected 46 swipes. The goal of the swipe drive was to collect 100 swipes. With two weeks left in the semester, Nazun is hopeful that they will meet their goal. 

Sodexo & Clark Swipe Donation Rules

Clark University is partnered with Sodexo for their dining services. According to their contract, students on meal plans are allowed to donate 2 meal swipes and these swipes must come from their guest meals. Additionally, the total number of donated swipes may not exceed 100 per semester. Hundreds of students use meal swipes each semester, and the 100 donated swipes is insufficient to meet the needs of the population of food insecure students at Clark. 

According to Sodexo and administration, these rules have been put into place for the following reasons: it’s assumed that Clark students will use only 80 percent of the swipes they pay for in their meal plan. For example, if you purchased the 10 meals a week plan, it’s estimated that you would only use 8 of the 10 swipes you have each week. As a result, the cost of meal plans is lowered accordingly. This means that if students are suddenly donating the meals they aren’t using, the cost of the meal plan will not reflect the amount of meals they are receiving.  

Facts

  1. Clark students WANT to donate more than 2 swipes. While collecting donations, Nazun heard from many students that would’ve donated more swipes if they could.
  2. Swipe drives are cost effective as the cost of feeding food insecure students is being paid for by students buying meal plans. 
  3. At least 3,000 swipes were used by students (as reported by the Dean of Students office.)

What’s Next?

Clark is renegotiating their contract with Sodexo this summer.

We ask that students be allowed to donate as many swipes as they want! If Clark students want to donate more swipes, they should be allowed to do so. After all, they are paying for the meal plans. 

In addition, Clark and Sodexo should allocate more swipes/funds to the swipe bank each year in order to sustain the program without increasing the price of the meal plans for students. 3,000 swipes was not enough to meet the needs of food insecure students and it is the duty of the administration to meet these needs. 

Finally, allow students, alumni, and others to donate money to food security at Clark. Clark and Sodexo should make it possible for people to donate money and pay for swipes to be donated to the swipe bank. All of these strategies working alongside the work of the FIRM pantry should position our students to thrive in an academic setting without worrying about where their next meals will come from. Every student, regardless of financial position, deserves food. 

Signed: 

Sarah Vacca, Andrew DiIorio, Julia Foster, Evelin Diaz Araque, Elijah Mugg, Mia Levine, Brady Klan Cook, Monica Sager, Alix Hietala, Daniel Zhu, Sarah Campbell, Natalia Khan, Elijah Cohen-Gordon, Savannah Devlin, MacKenzie Johnson, Jon Carrington, Eliza Quinones, Nguyen Ha, Sophia Okoruwa, Chau Duong, Grace DiCicco, Maya Falb, Annie Sinert, Adryana Hutchinson, Caroline Murphy, Huy Thai, Sadie Kaim, Brenna Lutzky, Jasper Carleton, Isabella Herrera, Najia Lloyd, Xea Kirkland, Thom FitzGerald, Mohamed Abulleif, Verity Sensat, Jasmin Rotem Planas, Daina Faust.

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