Earlier tonight, CCSC announced a plan to address food insecurity at Columbia—an issue brought to the forefront by last year’s CCSC and FLIP.  The plan involves a mobile app called Swipes that will connect students who need access to dining halls to students with available swipes.  The app will be available for download “soon.”

CCSC’s plan also involves the Emergency Meal Fund (EMF), which will provide CC, SEAS, and GS students with up to 6 meals per semester (“no questions asked”).  These meals are provided by a bank of donated guest meals from any CC, SEAS, or GS student, up to a total of 5,000 per semester.

While Swipes works in real-time and has no limit, EMF promises to be more reliable and anonymous.

Update, 9:28 p.m. While CCSC sent out the email announcing this event, the ESC and GSSC also passed this plan and are partners in implementing it.

Dear Columbia College,

Yes, we actually did some shit. Hopefully it works.

In the Spring, thanks to work from last year’s CCSC and FLIP, there was a lot of attention brought to the fact that some students on campus are going hungry – this is known as “food insecurity.” Since then, we’ve collaborated with administrators, FLIP and others to implement a pilot plan to address the issue of food insecurity. For full background and detail on the proposal, I’ve attached it here. The result of our council vote on it is here. Engineering Student Council and General Studies Student Council have partnered with us on this strategy and also passed votes in support of it.

In short, it’s a two-pronged approach to addressing food insecurity on campus.

  • First prong: Swipes, a mobile app developed separately by CC students Julio Henriquez and Helson Taveras which connects students who need to access dining halls with students who are near dining halls and able to swipe others in. Like Uber for meal-sharing. Swipes is being reviewed for the Apple Store and will be ready to download soon. Like their Facebook page to be notified when it’s ready.
  • Second prong. The Emergency Meal Fund (EMF), a peer-funded meal bank supervised by Dining. The EMF is funded by guest meals donated by guest meals donated by any CC, SEAS or GS students who wish to help. It can be accessed by any CC, SEAS or GS student to receive up to 6 meals per semester, no questions asked.

The advantage of Swipes is that it works in real time and there’s no limit to use. The advantage of the EMF is that students don’t have to take the chance that nobody will be available to swipe them in, and it’s more anonymous. Anonymous data will be collected from both Swipes and the EMF to help assess where and how food insecurity is felt on campus.

For students who want to give meals:

  1. Swipes App:
    Download Swipes to help swipe others in after the app becomes available. Like their Facebook page to be notified when it launches.
  2. Emergency Meal Fund (EMF):
    Donate any number of your guest meals to the EMF. Starting tomorrow, September 10th, the student councils and FLIP will be tabling in John Jay Dining Hall. All you need to do is sign a spreadsheet with your name, UNI and number of guest meals wished to be donated.

For students who need meals:

  1. Swipes App:
    Download Swipes to request meals after the app becomes available. Like their Facebook page to be notified when it launches.
  2. Emergency Meal Fund (EMF):
    Go to JJ’s Place and at the front desk, ask to see the manager-on-duty. The cashiers will know to not question your need to see the manager. The manager will record your UNI and school affiliation in the privacy of a Dining office and give you up to 6 meal tickets, no questions asked. You can redeem each for any meal at any dining location except Hewitt.
  3. Financial Aid:
    The roll-out of this plan coincides with Financial Aid’s expanded and revamped Deans’ Assistance Fund, which now covers flex allowances for food over school breaks except winter and summer. It also covers necessities (like winter coats) and unexpected costs (like new glasses or a plane ticket home to visit a sick family member), which aren’t food items but are costs which could lead to food insecurity. We strongly recommend that food-insecure students meet with Financial Aid because they may be eligible for more assistance than previously thought.

To be clear, we don’t see this as a be-all end-all solution to food insecurity on campus. We do, however, believe that it can make a substantive dent in the issue and allow CCSC/ESC/GSSC to collect data. Not knowing which groups of students are going hungry and why means we’re shooting in the dark. We hope that what we learn from this pilot program will help inform a future, more institutionalized, solution.

Feel free to reach out with questions.

Ben Makansi & Viv Ramakrishnan
Student Body President and VP of Policy