GENEVIEVE PFISTER, Staff Writer—The Big Red Promise, a new program designed to address issues of food insecurity on campus, has recently launched at Denison, thanks to a partnership between Bon Appetit, the Office of Financial Wellness, and Swipe Out Hunger, a national initiative to help college students get access to the food they need. The program, which just kicked off this semester, allows Denison students using declining-balance meal plans to donate one unused meal swipe per month to other Denison students who are experiencing food insecurity. Students can then apply to receive the donated swipes for use in dining halls.
“Our goal is to create an opportunity for students to help students,” Samantha Smith, Denison’s Financial Wellness Coordinator and one of the program leaders wrote in a recent email. During the fall 2020 semester, Smith spoke with several students experiencing food insecurity and began collaborating with Bon Appetit to support students dealing with this issue. Jennifer Howell, Catering Manager at Bon Appetit, had noticed that an increasing number of students were purchasing low-swipe meal plans or no meal plan, leading to an increase in the number of requests for food assistance as students ran out of meal swipes and were unable to add Denison Dollars to their account. “Students have limited income opportunities while they are full time students. Managing meal plans and learning how to plan and prepare meals for the first time are just some of the ways students’ food budget or plan can be affected,”Smith wrote.
Smith is excited to partner with a national organization on this issue, which she believes will open up many tools, resources, and opportunities for students to engage with as they choose.
To donate or participate in the program, students can go to the Financial Wellness section of MyDenison, click on the ‘Big Red Promise’ tab under ‘Food Assistance,’ and fill out the appropriate Google Form. All donations are one-time only, and each student can contribute one meal swipe ($7.50 declining dollars) to the program each month, with a maximum donation limit of four swipes per student per semester. Meal swipe recipients are enrolled in the program on a semester-long basis, and the number of swipes each recipient receives depends on the number of student donations, as well as their individual level of need.
Because of the limit on donations, Smith stressed the need for high student participation in the program, and its overall importance:“A student’s ability to focus in class and feel like a part of the community on campus is threatened by food insecurity. Denison wants to address this issue head on. Actionable projects like The Big Red Promise help our campus move forward to becoming a true platform for equity and equality,” Smith wrote.
In addition to swipe donors, the Office of Financial Wellness is seeking a group of students or a student organization to help facilitate monthly “swipe drives” to raise awareness about the program and encourage donations.
For more information, contact Samantha Smith at email@example.com.