Reaching 100: A Year-End Reflection from our VP of Programs
Three years ago, I interviewed at a small start-up called Swipe Out Hunger. At the time, there was just one other employee — its Founder and CEO, Rachel Sumekh. And I’ll be honest — I didn’t know much about college student hunger when I joined the organization. Growing up in Los Angeles, in and around the restaurant industry, I was aware that access to food was a privilege — and sadly, not a right — but I didn’t realize just how pervasive and systemic hunger was for countless college students across the country. Today, I’m proud to say that my education on this pressing issue mirrors the growing interest in and reach of Swipe Out Hunger.
From our humble beginnings — carpooling around LA, hopping from coffee shop to coffee shop in search of WiFi — we have grown into a team of five women, working tirelessly to eradicate college student hunger in partnership with our network of campus leaders on the ground. When I joined Swipe Out Hunger in 2016, 10 campuses, mostly on the west coast, had adopted Swipe Out Hunger programs. Today, Swipe Out Hunger spans more than 100 campuses in 37 states, from UCLA to the University of Vermont, from the University of Minnesota to Spelman College. This is an astounding growth rate, all the more so considering this issue was largely invisible when we started. This was a topic many college administrations didn’t want to acknowledge, let alone address.
They say the mission of any nonprofit is to make itself obsolete — to solve the problem such that the need for the organization no longer exists. When I first started, I believed swiping out college student hunger was a noble and lofty goal. Something worthy to stand behind, but not necessarily realistic. Today, seeing the effectiveness of Swipe Out Hunger’s leadership, dedication and passion of our growing team, the voices on college campuses that will no longer be rendered invisible, and the partnerships we have cultivated, I see that goal in a new light. We have even come up with new ways to take our work to the next level with the launch of our Research and Development Lab.
In the last school year alone, 73% of students we surveyed felt less stress and anxiety about where they would get their next meal as a result of receiving meals funded by Swipe Out Hunger. And that’s only one of the many promising results to come out of our work. If the Swipe Out Hunger program has grown 900% in three short years, imagine what we can accomplish in the next three, and the three after that. Ensuring that all college students have reliable access to meals no longer seems like a far off destination.
A cup of noodles shouldn’t be a rite of passage. Student hunger is real. And so too is the path to ending it.
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