With all of the publicity and media attention geared towards fighting obesity in America and halting the overconsumption of calories, we must not forget those who continuously struggle to source their next meal.
With all of the publicity and media attention geared towards fighting obesity in America and halting the overconsumption of calories, we must not forget those who continuously struggle to source their next meal. The Lempert Report has commented on various food banks in the past (Food Bank for NYC) but had yet to find such a unique operation as Swipes for the Homeless, a student run organization at the University of California Los Angeles. Swipes for the Homeless began collecting donation “swipes” in the fall of 2009 in order to help alleviate hunger within the homeless population of Los Angeles.
“Swipes” is campus lingo for the student meal plan, which is similar to a debit card that can be ‘swiped’ at various eateries on campus. Unfortunately many students, due to other food options around campus, are left with extra ‘swipes’ or unused meals at the end of a term. What to do with the extra ‘swipes?’ The Lempert Report spoke with Bryan Pezeshki, co-president of Swipes for the Homeless to find out.
“The idea really began out of a concern for the vulnerable homeless population of Los Angeles; as poor nutrition is one of many reasons that the physical and mental health of the homeless population is much worse than that of the general population,” commented Bryan. He noticed that many students were left with meal plans that still had plenty of credits or swipes at the end of a semester which would just go to waste. He decided to start collecting mostly non-perishable healthy foods through swipe donations and soon found himself leading a successful on campus program that donated hundreds of pounds of foods to local food banks and the homeless population around campus.
What’s particularly interesting about Swipes for the Homeless is that they’ve recently teamed up with UCLA’s Food Closet, an on-campus food pantry geared towards helping students who are unable to afford food or only have a few dollars to spend on fast-food belly filling options. The Food Closet allows less fortunate students access to healthful meals and snacks based entirely on an honor system. Bryan expressed his concern for the wellbeing of his fellow students and made clear that they “focus on providing healthy meal options as much as possible.” Swipes for the Homeless worked with the University to determine the most healthful options which include various canned soups, juices, fruit bowls, cereals, granola and more. “If students utilize The Food Closet, at least we know they are getting the right nutrition,” says Bryan.
Swipes for the Homeless collected 1,000 lbs of food last quarter, which will sustain part of the Food Closet’s supply during the summer break. And what about this coming school year? Is there an anticipated need for these types of services? Bryan says, “Absolutely. The UC fees were just increased, and the number of students struggling to make ends meet will most likely increase as well.”
What can CPGs and Supermarkets do to help the effort? Inquire with local Universities to see if they have such a program in place and keep in mind that nutrition is an important factor in food donation selection.
Bryan Pezeshki is a third year student studying Neuroscience.