Rounding Up at Linn-Benton Community College
Jessi Walker is a Student Success Specialist and co-founder of the Swipe program at Linn-Benton Community College. We invited her to write a blog about how she made a Swipe Out Hunger program operate within a community college model.
In recent years, Linn-Benton Community College has seen more and more students asking the campus pantry for enough food for one lunch, rather than an entire box of food. Students struggling with multiple basic needs insecurities may find it hard to use food from the pantry if they do not have a place to cook, or have allergies or dietary restrictions. Students were coming to the pantry for lunch because they were hungry right then and wanted to stay on campus and go to class or complete work, but didn’t have the money. The campus Food Insecurity Group (FIG) saw how Swipe Out Hunger was feeding university students using donated meal swipes, and thought that even though we do not have a campus meal plan, we could find a way to make Swipe work for LBCC so that our students could stay focused and get to class.
Once we started planning, we were surprised by how much traction we got so quickly! As soon as we presented our idea and plan to administration, they were receptive. Swipe Out Hunger’s team has been great with supporting us, and checking in with us to see how we’re doing. Their toolkit was immensely helpful!
With LBCC’s version of Swipe Out Hunger, called Round Up, anyone can donate by “rounding up” their purchases at the Commons Cafeteria, Courtyard Café, and Campus Store to the next dollar. Flyers around campus with a QR code tell students how to request Round Up food cards. Students can then pick up a packet at First Resort containing the card, worth $10 for any food in the Commons Cafeteria or Courtyard Café, as well as info on other campus and community resources, including SNAP.
Here’s how we’ve done it so far:
– Invited all the people we could think of who might be interested in joining our team, including students and staff. Talked about it whenever and wherever we got a chance, saw who else was interested, explored logistics, and came up with a plan for how to make it work.
– Lawrence LaJoie, our Director of Enterprise Services, worked with our Accounting department to create a dedicated account into which donations go, created signage, posted Round Up-branded donation cans for cash at registers, and made sure cashiers knew the process for donations from credit and debit cards.
– Found places where students were seeking help already and asked those folks to join our effort. FIG is made up of folks from all kinds of areas across the college, including Career and Advising, Enterprise Services, Academic Foundations, and Student Life and Leadership.
To ensure students were able to access meals, LBCC asked students to scan a QR code that then sent each student more information on how to receive meals.
Now, while you would think that giving away free food would be the easiest part of the project, one of our biggest struggles was figuring out how to distribute the cards once we had the fundraising covered. We did a trial run as soon as we got some funding coming in, and found that having multiple people distributing cards without a central pickup location was pretty hard. As it turns out, coordinating pickup times and locations across already-full schedules is a real challenge! Having one location where students can count on going to get cards seems much better—a resource center would work great, but for campuses that don’t have one, there may be places on campus that are already providing student services that are willing to partner.
Finally, we’re taking care to be good stewards of the donations and keep track of requests and distributions. We hope to also use the data from our request form to see how Round Up is correlated to retention and completion, and we are excited to see Round Up grow over the 2019-2020 school year!