Unused Meal Swipes to be Recycled by On-campus Organization


Kelsey Knorp
AS Beat Reporter

Students with a meal plan from Housing & Residential Services at University of California, Santa Barbara can, as of Monday, Oct. 28, donate their excess swipes through an on-campus program that will reallocate the swipes to those in need, both on campus or elsewhere in the Santa Barbara community.

The program, which was piloted last year as Swipes for the Houseless, is undergoing some structural changes that the founders, second-year psychology major Shannon Mirshokri and third-year sociology and psychology major Ali Guthy, feel will enhance its ability to both give back to the student body and provide for the local houseless population.

At a meeting with Associate Vice Chancellor Marc Fisher on Friday, Oct. 18, Mirshokri and Guthy were given a 1,000-swipe quarterly collection cap for the program as well as the ability to choose how many of those swipes would be donated back to students through the Associated Students Food Bank and how many would be translated to a monetary value for the purpose of feeding the houseless.

“Am I totally satisfied with it? I feel like there’s room to grow in the future,” Guthy said in reference to the quarterly cap.

However, both founders expressed gratitude at having received a significant increase from the caps implemented for last year’s pilot program, which had been 75 swipes for winter quarter and 100 for spring. The two have decided to allocate 70 percent of the first 1,000 swipes collected to students, with 30 percent going to houseless aid. These swipes will be collected during the remainder of fall quarter and distributed during winter. Necessary adjustments to the proportion will be made based on the results of this initial strategy.

“We have a lot of different ideas from administration and from the student body, and we’re just trying to figure out what’s best,” Mirshokri said. “We’re trying to work internally first.”

Students wishing to acquire donated swipes through the program must first apply to determine whether they meet certain criteria decided upon by the program’s leaders. Qualifying students will receive a designated need-based number of swipes per quarter, which they can redeem using vouchers provided by the organization.

“This would be a really good additional [resource] where students in need can be able to get food from the dining commons [instead of the food bank],” Guthy said. “[We’re] able to repurpose swipes in a way that fits those students as well.”

Those swipes allocated to feeding the houseless will be used in a variety of ways. During last year’s pilot program, they were translated into raw materials for sack lunches, which were then given to Casa Esperanza, a homeless shelter in downtown Santa Barbara. Future swipes collected will still be assigned a monetary value (of around $2.30), but the funds will be used to purchase imperishable goods from Costco to be donated both to Casa Esperanza and to other more local houseless causes as well. Guthy also alluded to a potential collaboration with the Isla Vista 7-Eleven to help distribute its leftover inventory to the local houseless population.

“The original name of our program was Swipes for the Houseless, so we want to make sure that we’re still reaching out to that community and helping them to the best of our ability,” Guthy said.

The organization began tabling to collect swipes on Monday during lunch and dinner and will continue to do so through Wednesday, by which point it will have covered all four dining commons. This schedule will continue through week eight of the quarter, with the goal that the 1,000-swipe quota will be met by then. According to the organization’s vice president, second-year global studies major Katie Shea, it is because of the way Housing & Residential Services has set up the meal plans that the swipes must be collected early in the week.

“Based on some algorithm, they plan on each student only using 12.2 meals, so by giving us an extra swipe they’d be losing money or food they weren’t planning on using,” Shea said.

For this reason, swipes must be donated preemptively so that the dining commons can plan supplies accordingly. This policy also requires students to plan ahead of time how many meals they will use that week, and students with unlimited meals each week are ineligible as donors.

While many aspects of the program will stay flexible for some time to come, the mission at the heart of its endeavors remains the same.

“The point is that we have these swipes,” said Guthy. “Now we can use them however the students see fit.”