When most UC Davis students are hungry, picking up a sandwich at the ASUCD Coffee House or swiping into one of the three on-campus dining commons is a natural response.
But for over 34,000 Yolo County residents, satisfying an appetite is not as accessible. To help prevent local hunger, UC Davis Dining Services, in conjunction with the Food Bank of Yolo County (FBYC), are hosting the annual Swipe Out Hunger program that runs from Nov. 12 to 21.
“The program is set up as a way for students who have meal plans in the residence halls to give up some of their meals in order to support the hunger-relief efforts of the FBYC,” said resident dining operations director Kyle Peiper.
Last year, the campaign raised over $6,000 to feed poor families in Yolo County. In 2010, about 700 cases of food were purchased through the program, directly helping 10,000 families in need.
“We act as a clearinghouse for large-scale food donations,” said FBYC community relations manager Shawn Kramer. “Programs tend to highlight a response to the community’s needs.”
The Swipe Out Hunger campaign was started in the early ’90s as a collaboration between university dining and housing services and the local food bank.
“There were students who asked, ‘How can I play a part in helping hunger?’” Peiper said. “This is giving them the ability to do their part.”
For many college students, making time to volunteer with a humanitarian organization is difficult. The program was made with this in mind, allowing students to contribute to their community.
“It’s a very easy way to donate. It’s quick and simple and has a huge impact,” Kramer said. “I think it’s a feel-good thing for students to do — it’s a passive way of donating.”
Students can donate up to 10 meal swipes at the entrance of any of the dining commons. When the program ends, dining services tallies all the meals given into a single monetary amount. Sodexo Incorporated, the company under which dining services is a part of, then purchases all of the food with the money raised.
“We focus on [purchasing] protein items; we are really focused on nutrition,” Kramer said. “We want to feed them [families] healthy items.”
Some food items that have been purchased in the past include fruits, vegetables, tuna, peanut butter and Cup Noodles.
“We like to get things that hold well, and are high-nutrient,” Peiper said. “It’s a focus on getting food that stretches the dollar as much as we can.”
Many UC Davis students, including first-year managerial economics major Jessica Kao, have already donated dining commons swipes for the cause.
“I walked into the [dining commons], and someone asked me if I wanted to donate to the homeless,” Kao said. “I thought that it would be a nice thing to do. It’s easy and I have a lot of extra swipes.”
The FBYC is partnered with over 60 nonprofit organizations that help to distribute the food purchased through the program. Since a large portion of the food collected is non-perishable, not all of it is given to families during the holiday season.
“We use it all over the place, across the board,” Kramer said. “It’s a win-win situation. We have the space to accommodate these donations and organizations that are spread out to Yolo County [that] help us distribute food to those in need.”
Peiper said the program has been extremely successful over the years and has contributed a lot to Yolo County and the food bank.
“[FBYC] serves approximately 20,000 people in Yolo County each month,” Kramer said. “We are very fortunate that we have a warehouse that is not empty. It is based on how quickly we go through some of our products.”
Kao said she was surprised to learn that a very large number of people in the county are hungry, specifically within Davis.
“So many people tend to think that hunger is somewhere else, but really, hunger is all around us, in our community,” Peiper said. “A lot of times, students don’t even realize that hunger is in our backyard.”
Both Peiper and Kramer said that any contribution is helpful to the cause, and that several small contributions can add up quickly.
“[People] really don’t understand how all of the little gestures do add up and they are really important,” Kramer said. “Someone who can donate one swipe is just as important as someone who can donate 10 swipes.”
The program is continuously growing and Kramer said there is always a new audience to make aware, which she attributes to the new students moving into the residence halls each year.
“The health of a community is dependent on all the facets of that community being healthy, and we can only help everyone by helping those people who have a need,” Peiper said. “It makes for a stronger community when we reach out and help those people who have need and it connects us to the world around us.”
RITIKA IYER can be reached at email@example.com.