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Students can now donate unused meal swipes to other students in need under the new pilot program.

February 5, 2019

New Program Allows Students to Donate Meal Swipes

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Unused bonus meal swipes no longer need to go to waste. Under a new pilot program, students can now donate an unused meal on their meal plan to other students in need.

The new plan, launched Feb. 4 by Cornell Dining, will create a “central bank” of unwanted, extra meals accessible to students experiencing food insecurity.

Currently, meal swipes — which can be used in any of Cornell’s 10 all-you-care-to-eat dining facilities — and Big Red Bucks cannot be shared between individuals. While some meal plans offer guest swipes, the amount of bonus meals is limited, ranging from four swipes to eight swipes per semester based on different meal plan offerings.

The new plan will allow one of these limited bonus meals to be donated to the central bank.

Individuals who do not have a meal plan pay $13.05 for lunch and $16.15 for dinner at an all-you-care-to-eat dining hall, according to Cornell Dining’s website.

“Food insecurity can cause other issues, such as sleeping in class, being unable to concentrate or struggling to complete assignments,” said Shakima Clency, director of first-generation and low-income student support, told the Cornell Chronicle, a University-run publication.

“It is important that we address these larger concerns,” Clency, who will be in charge of the program, said. 

A Cornell University PULSE survey found that up to 20 percent of students reported “skipping a meal due to financial constraints.”

Clency said the program is partnered with the nationwide Swipe Out Hunger group, an organization that seeks to provide innovative solutions to reducing college student malnourishment.

The Cornell community has approached food insecurity in a variety of ways prior to the launch of this program. In May 2017, after two years of planning, Anabel’s Grocery opened as a way to provide affordable groceries to students in a convenient location.

However, Anabel’s is currently on a hiatus this semester as it is used in the teaching of a course. A mobile food pantry will operate out of the grocery store space this semester in its place.

Additionally, Clency launched a program last fall that allowed individuals selected by Cornell Dining to act as “ambassadors” to give out passes to the AYCTE facilities “no questions asked,” according to the Cornell Chronicle, which is run by the University.

“For many years, Cornell addressed food insecurity on a person-by-person basis,” Ryan Lombardi, vice president for student and campus life, said in a university press release.

“Now we are tackling the issue systematically through a multifaceted approach,” Lombardi said. “[The University is] not only meeting immediate needs, but also more fully understanding the challenges students face in meeting their nutritional needs.”