Program lets students donate meal plan

University students often find toward the end of a semester that they have more swipes than they can hope to use.

The Falcon Care program is aiming to help students put those swipes to good use.

The program, which has been in effect since the fall semester, allows on-campus students with meal plan to donate unused swipes to students who are in need of food.

Much of the concern comes from the needs of off-campus students in particular, according to sophomore Nadia Oehler, who spearheaded the program.

Oehler is the Student Affairs Chair in the University Undergraduate Student Government.

“There is this huge need by students struggling with hunger that typically happens off-campus because they don’t have the dining meal plan that’s required of all on-campus students,” she said. “[Falcon Care] kind of just spurred out of this desire to do something about students who were feeling like they had too many swipes at the end of the semester.”

The inability of an individual to get nutritional food is called “food insecurity,” and it isn’t generally associated with college students. The recent rise of college tuition nationwide has had an effect on meal budgeting for those attending college.

According to the Michigan State University Food Bank, the number of university campus food banks in the U.S. shot up from one in 2007 to 121 in 2014. Additionally, a survey conducted last year by the University of Oregon found that 59 percent of their campus had recently experienced food insecurity.

Students who wish to donate swipes may donate one per week, which go to a single “swipe bank” collected by dining services. Swipes are taken from the bank and put on cards with five swipes each, which Oehler said is for “a meal per day.”

These cards are then distributed from the Office of the Dean of Students to those who need them.

Students must first be referred by a University health or financial office before they may take advantage of the program, such as the Falcon Health Center or the Counseling Center.

“Those recommendations can come from numerous different places from around campus where those people are kind of trained to see those signs,” she said.

The cards look no different from a temporary meal card given to a group visiting the University.

“You can’t peg them when they’re a student when they’re [using the cards],” Oehler said. “It can be an embarrassing thing when you can’t provide for yourself … we don’t want to give it a stigma.”

Oehler said much of the program’s promotion is focused on those who need it, rather than the entire student body. Since the fall, the program has collected roughly 40 swipes which have gone to roughly two or three people.

“Right now we’re not looking at making any changes that are huge and dramatic,” she said.

University Dining Services Director Michael Paulus said in an email that the organizations involved in the Falcon Care program believe it will be approved by the University for the upcoming academic year.

Oehler said her experience working with dining services has been positive.

“It’s such a great collaboration that we’ve been able to have with them,” she said.