Swipe it Forward meal donation returns, undeterred by red tape

The student-led initiative seeks to combat food insecurity, but its launch has seen NYU Eats struggle to cooperate with the student government.


Joshua Becker

A student swiping their NYU ID at a dining hall. (Joshua Becker for WSN)

Yezen Saadah, Staff Writer

Swipe it Forward, NYU’s dining hall meal swipe donation program, returns today. The Student Government Assembly, which runs the program, struggled to work with NYU Eats, the organization that operates the university’s dining halls, to spread the word about the program and collect donations.

The program relies on creating a bank of meal swipe donations that food-insecure students can use to swipe into dining halls for free. Select dining halls began accepting donations on Oct. 21, but due to a lack of them, the program’s launch was in danger of being delayed. The program ran into similar difficulties last year.

Ron Hall, the chairperson of the student government, said that NYU Eats did not help communicate the need for donations with students.

“It’s been frustrating, to say the least, because the program, while a student-led initiative, relies on strong collaboration from our partners at NYU Eats,” Hall said. “This week has been difficult, because a lot of the burden of getting the word out there has been on students. I’ve been asking for communication from NYU Eats about Swipe it Forward for weeks.”

In addition, the university has cut three dining halls from the program, according to Tina Panda, a senator at-large for students with basic needs insecurity.

“We’ve brought it up with almost every single meeting we’ve had with NYU Dining in terms of increasing the cap on donations every single day, increasing the number of locations, allowing online access to donations,” Panda said. “But the dining halls are more limited this semester.”

This semester, the program’s locations are limited to Jasper Kane Cafe on NYU’s Brooklyn campus and Lipton dining hall, Downstein, Kosher Eatery and Third North dining hall in Manhattan. Last year, Palladium dining hall and the Marketplace at Kimmel were also included.

According to a 2020 survey conducted by the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development, 26% of NYU students face low to very low food security. The Swipe it Forward program is one of multiple ways the student government is trying to address the issue. It also held a meal distribution and food drive event in the spring 2022 semester.

“We’ve seen that students who become aware of the program and how they can help instantly want to contribute,” Hall said. “The big goal for us, especially this week, is the need for donations.” 

Arnav Binaykia contributed reporting. Contact Yezen Saadah at [email protected].