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Q&A with Jaime Hansen, Our Executive Director

Q: Reflecting on your last 6 months at Swipe Out Hunger, what is it actually like working here? What has surprised you the most about the team?
One of the most surprising things has been the ongoing negotiation of the New York vs. New Jersey bagel or our astonishment that the Philadelphia Flyers mascot, Gritty, is not involved in our mission yet, despite Pennsylvania passing Hunger Free Campus.

All jokes aside, Swipe Out Hunger has a genuinely supportive culture. The team honestly wants the best for their colleagues and will advocate, champion, cheerlead, and support in so many ways in a virtual setting – it’s extremely refreshing.

Our team at our fall 2022 retreat in Los Angeles, CA.

Q: Do you have any big takeaways or lessons learned from the past 6 months?
I was surprised to learn how diverse the student population is across the nation. The student demographic looks significantly different than it did 10-20 years ago. While we have 25 million higher education enrollees, one-third of them are pregnant and parenting students. We have a higher population of folks enrolling in higher education who identify as Black, Indigenous, Asian American, Pacific Islander, and other ethnicities. It’s thrilling to see admission in colleges represent the vast array of students looking to transform their lives through their education.

And yet, we also have to recognize that higher education does not have the systems in place to support students in a way that promotes equity. That’s where Swipe can come in to facilitate conversations, provide technical assistance, and connect subject matter expertise so students have what they need to achieve their higher education goals. We know many under-resourced campuses can face challenges while seeking to promote accessibility for their students, but we love working with campuses to meet them where they’re at and make a plan to address this. 

Q: Is there anyone that you’re especially looking forward to partnering with or learning from?
There are a lot of people and organizations in this space doing really meaningful work. I’m excited about collaborating with our peers to share how we can support one another against the complex, nuanced issue of student hunger. 

For example, The Hope Center is expanding its work into and redefining what partnerships look like. And I feel like we have a lot of symbioses right now. Both organizations have had recent leadership transitions and yet our partnership remains strong. Another organization we’re excited to work with is Rise with their student navigator programming. Since we piloted a student navigator program in the CUNY system to support SNAP enrollment, we’ve been swapping best practices and learning from one another.

By bringing together subject matter experts across different organizations, we can build out streamlined systems and accessible resources that authentically address students’ needs. 

Q: What are you excited about in the next 6 months or beyond?
Building out our student leadership programs, across all of our programs, provides a huge opportunity to our vision of a hunger-free campus. We have folks on our team that have the expertise, passion, and energy to bring this vision to reality in the near future. We look forward to incorporating and centering the student voice, which gives me so much hope that we may actually put ourselves out of business through sustainable, student-centric solutions to end college student hunger.

Q: Do you have a go-to work-from-home snack or meal?
I still like ramen, a childhood staple, and I combine it with whatever leftovers I have on hand to add nutrition. Any leftover vegetables? Put it in there. You got a shoyu egg? Put it in there. You got bacon, tofu, or any other protein? Put it in there. Every day can be a completely different ramen meal. 

Also, I really love Cadbury mini eggs, and I like to snack on gummy worms. What I’m saying is I really like candy! Also salt and crunch and anything with vinegar…

Q: Have you recently read an article, book, or social media post related to our work/mission that you’ve found especially interesting or insightful?
“Feeding the Other: Whiteness, Privilege, and Neoliberal Stigma in Food Pantries” by Rebecca de Souza. She’s a professor at the Department of Communication at the University of Minnesota, Duluth. I’d recommend this book if people are interested in the intersection of white privilege with access to resources.

Q: We’ve occasionally seen some of your pets on Zoom. Would you say that one of your pets is a better work buddy than others? How would you rank them?
My cats, Boo and Luna, don’t make great work pets. Boo is 15, Luna is 14, and while they’re quiet most of the time, sometimes their snoring can be heard on Zoom meetings and Boo will wait until my most important meetings to slash me with her talons. 

Jaime with Sherman camping in Grandjean, ID.

I also have two dogs, Otto and Sherman. Otto, my chocolate Lab who is about a year and a half old, is probably my best work buddy because he’s very sleepy. The hardest part of Otto hanging out at my feet while I work is his horrendous gastrointestinal issues. And I have had to learn to keep my face as neutral as possible in the face of assaulting smells. Sherman, a yellow lab who is two years old, is very chill and very lovely. But he gets so excited by some of the sounds that may come through the screen. If somebody has a dog barking or sirens behind them, he’ll pierce the airwaves and my eardrums with his bark.

So if I had to rank them from best to worst: it’d be Otto, Sherman, Luna, then Boo – sorry (not sorry) Boo!

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