The new program could help more than 20 percent of TU’s student population.
One young man’s initiative, and your support, could save many of TU’s poorest students from food insecurity. Conner Bender, the secretary of SA, has been working with Sodexo to pilot a food swipe donation program. The program began March 5, allowing students to donate up to five meals from their guest swipes to a repository that will support food insecure students.
Bender noticed other schools had “Swipe Out Hunger” chapters, a non-profit that works with universities to help them create swipe donation programs. He contacted the non-profit and then sent out a survey to students to determine the interest level. “It looked like people would [donate swipes] because a lot of them don’t use swipes,” he reported.
After he completed the survey, he contacted Sodexo, who runs TU’s dining services, and told them there was an interest in a donation program. “With the dynamic with Sodexo,” Benner said, “I didn’t feel like I needed ‘Swipe Out Hunger.’” Mike Neal, the director of Dining Services, was in contact with housing and financial aid to get the program on its feet.
The program took several months to get approved. At first, Bender wanted students to be able to donate multiple swipes per week, if they wanted. In the end, Sodexo decided to give students the option to donate their guest swipes from one to five.
Once this repository of guest swipes are created, financial aid will work with the students and look at their FAFSA to determine if they need extra swipes.
Bender said the program first interested him after learning about food swamps and food deserts in his Global Scholars class. Food swamps are areas where unhealthy, highly processed, nutrient-poor food proliferates in combination with heavy advertising for this unhealthy food, while food deserts are areas where healthy foods are difficult to find. North Tulsa is one of those places. “President Clancy told me about 25 percent of students could be deemed food insecure,” he added. Bender hopes students donate as many swipes as they can.