Swipe Out Hunger's Founder & CEO Rachel Sumekh joined the Unorthodox team to speak on SOH's work addressing hunger on college campuses. She tells us why Swipe Out Hunger is an essential project, inspired in part by her family’s dependence on food assistance after her parents immigrated to the U.S. from Iran, and how, as a Persian Jewish woman in the technology and social entrepreneurship world, she’s hoping to be more of a norm than an exception.
Rachel's interview begins just after the 15-minute mark! Listen here.
REPOSTED FROM THE GARDEN SPOT VILLAGE BLOG
March 28th, 2017, 4:33pm
At Garden Spot Village, the core value of service flows through every aspect of life, including dining. Recently, Garden Spot Village residents began to donate unused meal dollars to fund a community meal through a Swipe Out Hunger campaign.
When Colleen Musselman, director of life enrichment, realized a national Swipe Out Hunger organization, geared towards college and university students existed, she contacted them. Soon after, Garden Spot Village officially became the first retirement community to affiliate with Swipe Out Hunger.
Rachel Sumekh, CEO of the nonprofit Swipe out Hunger, said the organization was founded in 2010 when she and her friends were students at UCLA. They saw a disparity between students having too much food and members of the community who did not have enough. They began to ask, “How do we support our community?” and “How can we use the system to make a change?” Since that time, Swipe Out Hunger has grown to 23 chapters on college and community campuses and the chapters have donated 1.2 million meals to community members and college students through meal vouchers and college food banks. They are excited to include Garden Spot Village in their efforts and see opportunity for other retirement communities to participate as well.
Since the program’s launch in early 2017 residents and staff responded generously, donating meal dollars and signing up to volunteer. To date nine staff and 21 residents signed up to volunteer and donations have already provided enough funds for several months.
In addition, Fred and Eileen Eck and Don and Lois Aldrich accepted leadership of the project. The couples researched other community meals in New Holland to determine best practices and plan for the first meal. They also worked closely with dining services staff, recruited volunteers and added the energy and momentum the project needed to bring the first meal to fruition.
Last evening volunteers served the first meal at CrossNet Youth Ministries at 110 W Franklin Street in New Holland. The meal was open to anyone in the community who needed a hot meal or companionship. Seventy-five members of the New Holland community and volunteers enjoyed a delicious lasagna dinner.
Dining services staff prepared the food and volunteers from Garden Spot Village set-up tables, chairs and serving stations, as well as served and interacted with members of the community.
Musselman says, “There was good food and great conversation. Many [who attended] thanked Garden Spot Village for the opportunity to get together around the table. Many were single and appreciated the opportunity to socialize.”
As Don Aldrich looks to the future, he desires that “God is glorified through our work. This is another opportunity for Garden Spot Village to reach out into the community and for the community to see who we truly are.”
Garden Spot Village will sponsor a community meal on the fourth Monday of each month at CrossNet Youth Ministries. If you would like to volunteer, please contact Volunteer Services at 355-6283.
Brianna sees about 65 former foster youth, now UCLA students, every week. The program she manages, Bruin Guardian Scholars, aims to provide the supports former foster youth might be missing. This often entails scholarships, guidance, community and food.
I met with Brianna to discuss how the meal vouchers that Swipe Out Hunger provides her students can better help. Right off the bat, the first way was to get them more vouchers.
Currently, thousands of California college students who are food insecure receive meal vouchers through Swipe Out Hunger. These give them access into campus dining halls where they’re able to have a warm, nutritious meal.
As Brianna and I spoke, it was clear we needed to get her scholars more meal vouchers. As I continued to ask, she suddenly got up from her seat and opened her desk cabinet. It revealed shelves full of food.
“But what about the UCLA food closet? They don’t want to get food from there?” The campus has a small room which is stocked with food, provided by community donations and Swipe Out Hunger.
I wasn’t surprised when she said that the STIGMA attached to using the campus food closet made some students reluctant to visit. Currently, about 100-150 students and UCLA employees utilize the closet daily. Being food insecure on campus is not an easy or comfortable position to be in. Having noticed her scholars reluctance, Brianna began ordering tons of food that she now keeps in her office. When students come in for their weekly meeting, she asks if they want a snack. Few pass up the offer.
Every day, Swipe Out Hunger works to make sure students have access to food and we will work to tackle the stigma associated with asking for help. Over the next three years, we're embarking on a mission to have 150 universities step up and consider students' access to food as much as they consider students' access to a football game. If you're inspired you can help by introducing us to a new university or helping to fund the launch of one.
Some facts about former foster youth:
- Only 10% attend university.
- Of that 10%, only 26% actually graduate with a degree (so 3% of foster youth total).
- “Financial skills training is vital for youth themselves but also for foster parents to enable them to help young people in their care as they move on into the adult world"
- You can help us support more of them here.
- You can learn about college student hunger here.
Statistics via Cohn and Kelly
Whether it’s an invitation to a party or not having the new iPhone, every college student has insecurities. With 1 in 7 college students struggling with hunger, we believe food should never be one of them.
Today we announce our “Swipe Out Insecurity” campaign which will culminate on November 29th, Giving Tuesday. This campaign aims to raise awareness about on-campus hunger and start a conversation to fight the stigma surrounding personal finances– the barrier often preventing individuals from seeking help.
This month, we’ll encourage students to visit www.swipehunger.org/pledge where they can pledge to donate their extra meal points. Last year alone, 8,276 students donated through Swipe Out Hunger and this year, we estimate more than 12,530 students to give. We want you to be a part of that movement. You too can visit our pledge page and help us raise $8,276 over the next 29 days in honor of each student donor who helped make an impact.
Throughout the month, we will share facts and stories about the issue in an attempt to end the stigma associated with disclosing financial hardships and seeking help. Foremost, one in seven college students in the U.S. struggle with hunger and at University of California schools like UCLA and Berkeley, that number becomes a shocking one in four.
This issue is tricky to address because in the national discourse and among college students, people seem more willing to share almost any personal fact about themselves than the amount of money they have in their bank accounts.
STUDENT SPOTLIGHT: CHANTAL CHAN
Every month, we give one of our student leaders a spotlight to share their story and about the work on the ground.
This April, we meet Chantal Chan, a senior at UC San Diego and co-president of her chapter.
1. Most nerve wrecking moment as a leader– when, if ever, were you worried about an event or program or the team?
I was most nervous as a leader when Bryan and I first decided to expand the team last fall. We had so many visions for Swipes for the year. We knew we had to make sure we built a team that would be just as passionate as we are about fighting hunger. After meeting every week before October, Bryan and I finally released the application for Swipes along with a short presentation about what it is about. We were excited to have to so many applicants, and even got the chance to interview each of them. When we had our first meeting as a team, we were so nervous to lead it. At that point we knew we had qualities in all the members we had hoped to have, but we knew we wanted to make sure our meeting ran smoothly. We played a few ice breakers, ate some pizza, and talked through the logistics for the quarter. Fortunately, our hard work paid off - and we are so lucky to have found such an amazing team to lead Swipes into the future.
2. You guys had an epic 5k last year– how did you get 2,000 students to show up?
Walk the Block was actually a 3 mile walk around campus last year that supported the Triton Food Pantry on our campus. It was a student-led event, in which students organizations provided entertainment, students individually volunteered, and many supported by donating to Swipes. It really made me realize the impact our campus can make on food insecurity when students and faculty join together to fight such a major problem in San Diego and within UCSD. I believe the driving force for a lot of the students was the theme. The walk was basically a block party theme in which students who came got to dance at each party station along the way, and also learn about food insecurity facts while walking. Because we had many sponsors that helped support the event, we were able to have major food vendors come out and fun activities such as yoga, rock climbing, and giant hamster balls. The best part was that all the proceeds went to the Food Pantry, which meant students could have fun and support a great cause. We're really excited to have Walk the Block happen again this year as a 5K to support the Triton Food Pantry, but this time there will even be a headliner! Tickets will be on sale soon! It'll be May 14th, and it would be awesome if any of ya'll around the area wanted to come support!
3. After two years of donating off campus, your chapter recently shifted its focus to addressing on campus hunger as well. Why and how has it been going?
Our chapter switched to focusing on fighting hunger both on campus and off campus because we realized how prevalent the problem is even in the UCSD community. In a recent survey, one in four students at UCSD skip meals due to financial reasons. We thought this would be a great way to support our local community, and to actually see that the impacts of our efforts lie very close to home. Swipes donates 1/3 of our proceeds to the Triton Food Pantry at the end of every year and the rest to the San Diego Food Bank. Since the Triton Food Pantry opened last year, about 500 people come out to collect meals every week. We have a Triton Food Pantry rep position in Swipes now in order to continue strengthening our partnership with the Food Pantry on campus. It is our hope that this partnership will continue to grow and we hope to volunteer there next quarter!
4. If you were to compare your college experience to a TV show, what show would it be and why?
Hmm.. this one is tough. If I had to pick one show that my college experience most resembles, it would be Friends! I have had so many great adventures and met some of my closest friends in college. My sophomore year, my roommates and I spent all our time together and our closest guy friends lived down the hall. It was the best living situation I could imagine, and to this day we are still all so close. In fact, I'm writingthis from Canada right now, as we're traveling together before we graduate. College was full of many funny, dramatic, crazy moments that I would never trade for the world and I'm so thankful to have found my second home.
STUDENT SPOTLIGHT: TIANA AUSTEL
Every month, we give one of our student leaders a spotlight to share their story and about the work on the ground. This March, we meet Tiana, a senior at UCLA and co-president of her chapter.
What are your plans for post-grad and how does your experience with Swipe Out Hunger fit into that?
After graduating from UCLA I would love to be involved in a fellowship program, such as the CORO fellowship, working with top grads in their field to tackle some of the world's most pressing humanitarian issues (health, poverty, education, etc). Through Swipe Out Hunger I've gained an appreciation to just how rich and complex issues can be, no issue can be solved with a single focused approach. As the next changemakers we need to be looking at societal issues like hunger and food insecurity as parts of a bigger picture. Food insecurity isn't just about food, it involves public health, economic disparity, social justice, diversity, environmental issues, agriculture, labor rights, etc.
After an involvement a 1-2 year fellowship program I would love to go back to grad school and work for a non-profit foundation full time, such as the Gates Foundation, who work with a variety of different issues both domestically and internationally. As a communication studies major and civic engagement/global studies double minor I am fascinated by innovative ideas that close the gap between waste and those in need and the power of a singular person or idea to solve seemingly insurmountable issues.
My experience with Swipe Out Hunger has been a vital contribution to my discovery of self and love of working with a variety of different non-profits. Through swipes I was given the opportunity, even as a first year, to voice my opinion and really feel like I was being heard by people who would support me unconditionally. It also gave me the opportunity and the means to network both within my own school and with changemakers all over the nation in a variety of different fields. Even now, as one of the current co-presidents of the UCLA chapter of Swipe Out Hunger, I have been encouraged personally by many years of past swipes legacy members who have all been unfailingly supportive in all of my endeavours. Swipes really has been a family to me and it's incredible to see the work we have been doing across this nation and beyond.
What is your favorite part about being a swipes leader on campus?
This may be cheating but I have 2 favorite parts of being in swipes.
My first favorite part of being a swipes leader is hands down the people. Through swipes I have been able to meet some of the most creative, innovative, and passionate people and, as corny as it sounds, have been able to create lifelong friendships. One of the reasons I feel like swipes is inspiring is our "nothing is impossible if you just work hard enough" mindset. From our very inception so many years ago at UCLA I've been surrounded by people who won't take no for an answer, even if it means bearing negative repercussions. Every single student I've met from our chapters across the nation is so passionate about the issue and some of the most hardworking individuals I have ever had the pleasure to work with.
My second favorite part of being a swipes leader has been the ability to connect with other organizations to create more comprehensive solutions to long standing problems. This year through a partnership with Food Forward Swipe Out Hunger at UCLA has been able to collect donated produce from farmer's markets every Sunday to be donated to food insecure individuals in the community. There's nothing like carrying 500lbs of produce every day and knowing that all that food that would have gone to waste is going to those in need to create a healthier community.
If I didn't have Swipes that partnership would have never been possible and the thousands of lbs of food that we donated would have gone to waste.
If you were to be a cartoon character, who would it be and why?
After a thorough consultation with friends via text message the answers were almost synonymously Sleeping Beauty.
Growing up I was a competitive figure skater and woke up many mornings at 4AM to go to practice before school resulting in notoriously long naps during the afternoon. My friends have now become desensitized to long text response times and have resorted to calling me before our scheduled meals together to make sure I'm up. It also doesn't help that one of my friend's favorite nickname for me is "Princess" too.
By Jared Fenton
On November 20th, between 10AM - 4PM, all Penn students with a meal plan will have the chance to donate up to 2 meal swipes to help feed the hungry in Philadelphia. This donation will take place in McClelland dining hall in the Quad, and is thanks to the great work of SWIPE Out Hunger (SWIPES).
SWIPES is a student organization at Penn dedicated to solving the crisis of food insecurity in Philadelphia, where 1 in 4 residents currently live on fewer than $4 per day for food. To put that in perspective, that means 25% of our neighbors have to sustain themselves every single day on less than the cost of a coffee and snack at a local café.
Having heard this statistic late my Freshman year, when my friend Jessie Abrams told me she and her friend Liza Lansing were thinking about starting the SWIPES program at Penn, I instantly knew that I wanted to get involved. Since then, my experience with SWIPES has been all I could have hoped for. From the excitement last year of donating over $8,000 to Philabundance, a local Philadelphia charity dedicated to feeding those who are food insecure, to our new educational events this semester, I have had multiple opportunities to help change this statistic for the better.
So, if you would like to get involved in SWIPES as well, come to our donation day on November 20th in McClelland dining hall any time between 10AM and 4PM or email firstname.lastname@example.org for information on how to get involved with the Board.
Swipe Out Hunger is selected as a recipient of the $10,000 Innovation Award from LinkedIn For Good.Read more
Swipes at UCR Co-founder Rafid Sikder & Senior Director of Dining Services David Henry (via UCR Today)
It started with a simple idea: to reduce the poverty level in Riverside and San Bernardino. After two years, I founded and officially launched the Swipe Out Hunger chapter at the University of California, Riverside (UCR).
Within a matter of 7 days, split between the Winter and Spring quarter, we raised almost $10,000 which will help feed around 4,000 people.
It is never easy to start an organization, especially such an institutional one like Swipe Out Hunger.
Looking back at on our first two drives, we were able to do quite a lot in a very short period of time. We assembled an amazing team of passionate and helpful students, created a simple but efficient structure for our organization and held two Swipes drives, each during the 10th week of the Winter and Spring academic quarter.
It felt surreal to be able to collect so much within such a short amount of time. I mean, it did take a lot work to launch the chapter and to have it become officially recognized on campus, but it was amazing and humbling to see how generously first year students were giving.
To see how much we have grown as a leading service organization on campus is exciting. Many other service organizations have asked to collaborate with us and we are continually trying to expand and grow swipes every quarter. A portion of the funds we collected were invested in crops to be grown in our community garden. Its amazing to see them now growing. This past quarter, and in transition to summer, we are growing lettuce, tomatoes, and watermelons. Not to mention the vast number of oranges we will be picking!
I am very pleased to see how far we have come and I look forward to work with the next incoming class. I hope to keep learning from my team and my peers on how we can make Swipes at UCR the best it can be. I am deeply humbled and honored to have been able to make this come to a reality. And as always, shout out to my team for making this happen!
You Can Read More on Swipes At UCR's Work Here.
Photos from the UC Riverside Garden!