Swipe Out Hunger is the Righteous Crowd Org of the Week!

Swipe Out Hunger's student leaders from across fifteen diverse states gathered to work towards ending student hunger.

Swipe Out Hunger's student leaders from across fifteen diverse states gathered to work towards ending student hunger.

Swipe Out Hunger

Working to End Student Hunger on College Campuses

In this week’s Torah portion, Eikev, we read the words to the Birkat HaMazon, the Jewish grace after meals. It says: “And you will eat and be satisfied, and bless the Lord your God for the good land which He has given you” (Deuteronomy 8:10). Inspired by this blessing, and as we head into back to school season, we are supporting an organization that addresses hunger on college campuses. Swipe Out Hunger’s flagship program allows students with extra dining hall swipes to donate them to peers.

Read our interview below with Swipe Out Hunger's Founder and Executive Director Rachel Sumekh.

Why did you decide to start Swipe Out Hunger?
Initially, I was a college student with extra money on my meal plan that was going to disappear if unused at the end of the year. My friends and I decided to convince UCLA to allow us to donate these meals to our peers who were food insecure. Fortunately, the administration readily agreed. It was incredible seeing how I could initiate a change in policy to help students in need.  And, we helped spark programs supporting students at 84 other universities as they also created similar meal-share programs.  Yes, we really have made a difference in helping many students lacking resources to eat nutritious well-balanced meals.

What's a story from Swipe Out Hunger that is meaningful to you?
Every day, students share how our programs have helped them. Some highlight dire situations facing students. Earlier this week, for example, a student in Los Angeles wrote us saying “I’ve been able to eat more regularly. The meals have been more filling, as well. I don’t stress about where my next meal is coming from or how I will pay for it, and I don’t get hunger headaches anymore.” This student highlights something that most of us take for granted -- the profound impact of having a good meal and not stressing as our credit card gets swiped. The anxiety of food insecurity stems from these tiny moments building up as they swirl around in our heads every other minute.

What are some non-monetary ways for others to get involved?
Our movement has grown just by word of mouth to 32 states. We encourage you to ask any college students or college administrators you know to reach out to Swipe Out Hunger so we can help bring initiatives to end hunger to their campus.

Who has inspired you in the work that you are doing?
I’ve been inspired by my father, Joseph. As an Iranian Jewish immigrant, he had to build a business to support his family but never put work or money before family. He continued to be kind and funny to everyone he met. He not only makes time for his family and personal passions (like gardening!) but also lives in a way that makes clear these are the more important focuses in life. He reminds me to lead in a similar way.

What has surprised you about working with Swipe Out Hunger?
We are told that creating change is hard and takes time. It is true that it is hard, but with strong values and passion, we can all make a difference. In the past six years, a team of young (mostly Jewish!) women in an office in Los Angeles have changed the conversation around food on campus. We have advocated successfully in the passage of over $20 million in trailblazing legislation and have struck partnerships with multi-billion dollar food companies after they called us saying they were unable to get university contracts without us. I could have never expected us to have reached these heights. There is power in a clear message and a strong model.

What's the best part of your job and why?
The best part of my job is always whatever I’m being challenged by the most. Naturally, that means it changes every year. Right now, it's learning how to cultivate a strong national team (our staff includes five powerful women!) who then, in turn, are able to support hundreds of college student leaders.

To learn more about Swipe Out Hunger visit www.swipehunger.org.

Amy Benarroch