Opinion: NYU’s Swipe it Forward meal donation program could be great

The meal swipe donation program aims to combat food insecurity in our community, but its inconsistency and confusing logistics are hindering its potential.


Camila Ceballos

Swipe it Forward is a food donation program at NYU. Students are able to donate up to three meal swipes per day at select dining halls. (Staff Photo by Camila Ceballos)

Holly Kase, Contributing Writer

We live in an expensive city, which means eating doesn’t come cheap. A 2019 NYU study surveyed 257 NYU students and found that 41% were experiencing food insecurity. That’s a major concern for college students. Being hungry can affect academic performance, attendance and, of course, physical well-being. We need to be conscious of this issue, which many of our classmates may be facing. As students and as a university, we should also take steps to address food insecurity. So, we need to acknowledge that NYU’s Swipe it Forward Program isn’t as good as it needs to be. 

The Swipe it Forward program allows students with a meal plan to donate meal swipes to others. You can donate swipes by going to one of the participating dining halls: Downstein, Kosher Eatery, Marketplace at Kimmel, Peet’s Coffee, the Lipton dining hall, the Palladium dining hall, the Third North dining hall, and Jasper Kane Cafe. Tell the attendant or cashier that you want to donate meal swipes. Students using donated swipes can grab their meal and inform whoever is working at the checkout that they want to use the Swipe it Forward program to pay for it.

NYU Student Government announced earlier this semester that the program was coming back on Feb. 21, 2022. That raises the question of why it was stopped to begin with. The program was not available for the first month of the semester, during which time it gathered a bank of donated swipes. That negligence left food-insecure students without access to these free meal swipes. It also created confusion about when and how the program actually operates. 

When the program is up and running, students are able to donate up to three swipes per day. For those hoping to donate all of their extra swipes, this limit creates a need to plan ahead. How many meal swipes will I have left over at the end of the semester? How many days ahead should I start donating? This uncertainty will likely prevent students from donating all of their unused meal swipes. Why can’t we donate 10 swipes per day, in keeping with the policy that students with meal plans are able to use up to 10 of their swipes each day? This would allow students to donate even more. During the 2020-21 school year, students could also donate via a Google Form, but that form is no longer accessible, making it more difficult for students to donate swipes.

NYU students want to help each other. During the quarantine period at the beginning of the 2020-21 school year, students were bringing donations of food to those stuck in quarantine with inadequate meals. Many of our classmates are already using their extra swipes to buy sandwiches for people living unhoused around campus. The NYU Share Meals app, a platform for students to exchange meal swipes and share extra food from campus events, was actually founded by an NYU alum. According to NYU Share Meals, the Swipe it Forward program had successfully donated over 3,000 meals as of December 2020. With increased awareness of the program and its goal of fighting food insecurity, many more students could have access to meals.

WSN’s Opinion section strives to publish ideas worth discussing. The views presented in the Opinion section are not the views of the Washington Square News. 

Contact Holly Kase at [email protected].