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Unused meal swipes should automatically be donated

By Thresher Editorial Board     9/7/21 10:00pm

For three semesters now, the Student Association has implemented the Guest Meal Swipe Donation Program where Rice students on the Type A meal plan can donate up to all five of their guest meal swipes for off-campus students facing food insecurity to use. The SA’s efforts have helped many and will continue to do so this semester. However, food is such a basic need that off-campus students can struggle to access, meanwhile on-campus students have an abundance of food available to them. Whether by going off-campus for meals or sleeping through breakfast, there is undoubtedly a plethora of meal swipes that go unused by on-campus students each semester. The administration should consider allowing those unused swipes to be automatically donated to those who are food insecure.

If you are a student living on campus, you are automatically enrolled in the Type A meal plan providing 20 meals per week and cannot choose a meal plan with fewer meals per week. This results in many swipes — paid for by students’ tuition payments and financial aid from Rice — being unused every week when students choose not to eat some meals at the serveries. There is no possibility of using the swipes once the week ends, yet they are paid for just as guest swipes are. The administration should find a way to automatically donate unused swipes each week to the fund for off-campus students. The food is already made and paid for; there is no reason not to donate these excess swipes to those who need them.

The Guest Meal Swipe Donation Form closes on September 10, yet many students may not know about the program. Along with low visibility of the program, changes in COVID-19 restrictions such as removing restrictions on who can visit residential colleges may lead students to donate fewer guest swipes in anticipation of using them for guests. The program already could not cover all of the students who wanted to utilize it in the last two semesters. With the possibility of receiving fewer donations this semester, it is imperative that the administration step in and pursue additional routes for addressing food insecurity for off-campus students.

Other initiatives like the Student Success Initiatives Food Pantry are not nearly visible enough to cover all of the food insecurity that the Guest Swipe Program may not be able to address.  Additional resources for monetary assistance (such as the Access and Opportunity Portal and magisters’ funds at the residential colleges) are not sufficient. Funds are often limited, securing funding through AOP requires an interview process and resources are not well-advertised to students through official channels. 

The SA, SSI and other programs cannot fully tackle the issue of food insecurity for off-campus students. Rather than rely on these avenues, the administration should put to use the many unused meal swipes each week to make food available to everyone who needs it.

Editor’s Note: Thresher editorials are collectively written by the members of the Thresher’s editorial board. Current members include Savannah Kuchar, Ben Baker-Katz, Ivanka Perez, Nayeli Shad, Talha Arif, Morgan Gage, Daniel Schrager, Nicole Lhuillier and Brandon Chen.

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