Saturday, September 18, 2021

‘No questions asked’ meal swipes

USA Today recently reported Columbia University’s efforts to feed students in need through two avenues: Emergency Meal Fund and a new app called Swipes.

The Emergency Meal Fund allows students to donate up to six meal swipes a semester and also allows for any student to receive up to six meal swipes with “no questions asked,” the article said.

Executive Director of the College’s Auxiliary Services Wayne Duprey said that as of now, for people who don’t have a meal plan there isn’t a solution that the college offers.

However, he said, “The student who has meals or runs out of meals can either add meals, or they can use their debit card.”

He said the system does permit those with a flex meal plan to use their meal swipes on whomever they please. Students also use can guest swipes if they’re on the anytime meal plan.

“But again, there is no infrastructure to support a process where you can just draw from a bank or easily connect with somebody who has too many meals,” Duprey said.

Duprey wasn’t sure if the technology being used at Columbia University was developed in house or if it was made from a third party.

“We work with a third party. We’ve got two third party purveyors that we’re working with. One manages the card system information,” he said. “The other one is the point of sale device at the actual location.”

Duprey said Columbia’s system is probably automated, so the students have a select number of meal swipes they can use each week, which would make it easier to have a system in place. USA Today reported that students can purchase a meal plan that allows 21 meal swipes per week.

Plattsburgh State Psychology major Allie Fairchild said that it’s useful because swipes go to waste at the end of the year. “People who need to eat need to eat,” she said.

The other option is an app called Swipes, which works similar to the dating app Tinder. If you’re looking to grab food, you put in a time you would like to go and which dining hall. A notification is then sent to all the people in that dining hall, and if no one is there, it sends out a notification to others around campus, according to the article.

If you do match, Swipes sends your photo to the person, and you receive one of them in return. It can also include a note.

Nursing major Jill Kimball said the app would be a fun way to get to know people.

“People always need swipes, usually me. Food is what brings people together,” Jill said.

Fairchild said she felt the app was good because “it’s a safer way to meet people. People won’t seem nervous to go because they’re going to get food. It’s less intimidating. You’re also not forced to hangout.”

Communications major Molly Kelly said she wants an app like that for PSUC, and it would be good for students who might spend money on groceries.
“I’ll buy a bag of apples, and they go bad after three days,” she said.

Molly said, “As an off-campus student who doesn’t have a meal plan, I feel bad asking my sisters for swipes. If someone offered, I wouldn’t feel bad.

“Tinder’s for sex, but this app is for food. It’s a good way to meet people in a safer environment,” said Kimball.

Email Patrick Willisch at

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