Wondering how to develop a structure around meal credit eligibility and distribution to ensure the resource is going to the students who need it most? The details vary campus to campus, but here are the basic components to get started.

  • Conduct Outreach

    Ensure that students facing food insecurity can access meal swipes and that the resource is going to the students who need it most.

    – Targeted: Informs specific students who are facing or are likely to face food insecurity of meal assistance program; e.g. meals may be targeted to students who do not already have a meal plan, former foster youth, and/or students who are first generation college students, international, DACA, and pell eligible.

    – Open: Any student can request meal swipes via an online or paper form or through meeting with a designated office and applications are reviewed on a case-by case basis.

  • Develop Eligibility & Approval Process

    Designated staff review applications and qualifiers are determined by each school. The openness of the program is often based on the resources each school has available as well as the limits placed on the donation process. Approved amount ranges from a high number of meal swipes available to all students who apply, to a smaller number of emergency swipes per semester to students who are facing high levels of food insecurity.

  • Ensure Distribution Process

    Ensure students receive and use swipes, as anonymously as possible to reduce stigma.

    – Electronic Transfer: Meal swipes are loaded directly onto a student’s dining hall card; this is the most confidential way to operate the program.

    – Pre-loaded Cards: Cards loaded with a set number of swipes are given to the student and these cards look like other students’ IDs when swiping into the dining facilities.

    – Vouchers: Paper tickets are given to the student to redeem meals. This is the least confidential way to operate the program.


  • Emory University

    Any undergraduate student can request meal passes via an online form. An appointment is then set up with the student and a staff from the Student Success Program Office to perform a brief assessment. No student is ever turned away; all students receive at least three meals when they come in.

  • Carleton College

    Students who are experiencing a financial hardship due to an unanticipated event can fill out an online form to apply for a $400 grant once per semester. After an assessment is conducted, students who express signs of food insecurity are referred to receive meal swipes.

  • UC Davis

    Students who utilize financial aid and have exhausted all financial resources can fill out an online form to request one or two meal cards with 5 pre-loaded meal swipes each. Financial aid staff use their discretion to distribute cards on a case-by-case basis and when possible, refer students to additional resources for food and other basic needs.

  • UC Irvine

    Students must submit an online application for the Emergency Meal Swipe Program. The Food Access and Security Coordinator reviews applications and typically approves them as long as there is a demonstrated need and all documents are submitted. Within 48 hours, staff will contact dining and request for a minimum of 10 meal swipes to be added to the students’ ID card. Students with greater need can get awarded more based on their situation.

  • CSU Long Beach

    Case managers within the emergency wellness team may offer meal swipes to the students who are referred to them. The case manager sends an email with the students’ ID number to Dining and ID Card services and within 1 business day, 10 meals are electronically loaded onto the student’s account. Additional meals are available contingent on students having regular check-in meetings with their case manager to discuss their situation.

  • Colorado State University

    In order to qualify for the Rams Against Hunger meal swipe program, students must not have a meal plan and receive $10,000 or less in estimated family contribution. Priority is given to students who have not previously received assistance through the program. A student facing food insecurity can submit an online request form which is reviewed by Student Financial Services and if they are eligible, the equivalent of 15 meals a week for the remaining weeks in the semester are electronically transferred to their account.

  • University of North Carolina – Charlotte

    Currently enrolled UNCC students who are experiencing food insecurity can request meal assistance by scheduling an appointment with the Student Assistance and Support Services. Other campus staff can also refer students to schedule an appointment with Student Assistance and Support Services through the maxient system. During this intake meeting, the student will complete a holistic needs-based assessment to help the staff determine if they are eligible for the Swipe Out Hunger program. Most students who have the intake meeting are eligible unless they currently have meal plan funds. Staff will allot 15 swipes onto the ID cards of the students who are eligible and students may return to request additional resources.