Gallatin first-years mobilize students to donate meal swipes to mutual aid

XR University NYC, revived in March, is challenging students to address issues ranging from climate change to food insecurity.

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Tori Morales

From left to right: Gallatin students William Frankle, Gigi Weisberg and Amelie Srinivas. (Photo by Tori Morales)

Tori Morales, Staff Writer

It’s no secret that NYU has a food insecurity problem. The university’s Swipe it Forward program, which allows students to donate meal swipes that would otherwise go to waste, was in a meal deficit last semester, meaning more students used it than paid into it. During the 2022 V100 spirit week, the student government distributed more than 80 meals in 30 minutes, indicating a high demand for meal assistance.

Although the university community and student government are making attempts to address food insecurity on campus, three Gallatin first-years are urging the university to do more — and they’re mobilizing the student body to address food insecurity not only on campus, but more broadly in the Greenwich Village community. 

Amelie Srinivas, Gigi Weisberg and William Frankle revived a group affiliated with Extinction Rebellion that fizzled out due to the pandemic. The group, which brings students and educators together in New York City to address multiple issues, sees climate change, pollution, the eviction crisis and food insecurity as intrinsically linked.

“Our whole philosophy is every social issue is tied to environmentalism,” Srinivas said. “Environmentalism, and the pandemic and inflation, that all goes hand in hand with the eviction crisis. And so we’ve been trying to center our actions around mutual aid.”

XR University, as the group calls itself, organized a meal donation program in conjunction with Washington Square Park Mutual Aid. Over the past year, WSPMA has met in the park every Friday afternoon to distribute food and other materials to those in need. XR University led a group of 10 students to swipe into dining halls, get multiple to-go containers, fill them with food, and bring them to WSPMA to donate. For many students in attendance, it was their first time contributing to WSPMA.

Frankle suggested that the group might repeat this program on a monthly basis.“It’s like max 10 swipes, and you end up with a lot left over anyway,” Frankle said. “So we can maybe do it more frequently, not just at the end of the semester.”

Weisberg sees the action as a simple way for NYU students to contribute to their community, one that NYU should extoll in its marketing to prospective students.

“It’s not really costing anyone anything, they already had to pay for the meal plan,” Weisberg said. “Might as well use them and help the community around you, especially Washington Square Park … If it’s our campus, we need to be taking care of it.”

XR University has previously been involved in Earth Day protests and it recently hosted a flea market that raised $400, which it donated to WSPMA. Speaking more generally about the group’s mission and philosophy, Srinivas expressed frustration with what she believes are impersonal ideas of charity that hinder community-building.

“I’m so over the charities that have a superiority complex — you just need to treat everyone with humanity,” Srinivas said. “If you’re going up and donating meals, just go up and make conversation. We never try to alienate anybody.”

The group hopes that, with continued efforts, it will be able to encourage New York City college students to contribute to their communities, both through continued contributions to mutual aid and protests to address wider issues.

“We’ll take five minutes of your time, we’ll take five hours — whatever you want to give us,” Weisberg said. “However much time you have to give to help the community, we’d love to have you.”

Though the semester is drawing to a close, the group has one more meal swipe mutual aid program on Friday, May 6, and it intends to continue in semesters to come. 

Contact Tori Morales at [email protected]