One in three college students currently face food insecurity, with the emotional and economic stress brought on by the pandemic increasing that number by 14%, according to Sodexo.
To help end student hunger, the foodservice provider partnered with nonprofit Swipe Out Hunger to launch a pilot program last spring. The Meal Swipe Bank, as it is called, provided 15,500 meals to 1,000 students. Sodexo announced Wednesday that the program is now expanding to 100 U.S. campuses by the end of 2021.
To protect the identity of the students, Sodexo distributes meal swipes directly onto individual ID cards, allowing those enrolled to anonymously redeem free meals. The swipes Sodexo provides to the Meal Swipe Bank are equal to the sum of mandatory meal plans sold for the fall and spring semesters.
“The Swipe Out Hunger program provides both emergency access to meals and also peace of mind for students that their campus supports them and that there are easily accessible resources should they need access to free meals,” Tom Post, CEO of Sodexo Universities, said in a statement.
The Sodexo and Swipe Out Hunger pilot program launched on 12 campuses around the country, including Seattle Pacific University and San Francisco State University. In a survey conducted following the program, 80% of participating students said they felt less stress and 44% reported performing better in class.
As part of the program’s expansion, Sodexo and Swipe Out Hunger plan to partner with student leaders to further address campus hunger. Initiatives include swipe drives where students can donate unused meal swipes to peers, working with food-security task forces on campus to discuss challenges and opportunities, and teaming up with dining services to bolster food-security programs.