In our In Case You Missed It series (also known as ICYMI), students working at the Office of Sustainability offer reflective reports on sustainability-related events and lectures at UW–Madison. The following entry is by Nina Delgadillo.
From October 4-11, 2021, UW–Madison students participated in the Swipe Out Hunger campaign by opting into donations each time they used their WisCard in campus dining halls. The campaign raised a total of $8,500 for the Badger Fare Program. Through the Badger Fare program, students facing food insecurity can receive a $75 payment onto their WisCard to help them purchase what they need.
The Swipe Out Hunger campaign was inspired by the plethora of student groups working on food justice-related issues like food accessibility, access to nutritious food, and food education. Connor Raboine, a fifth-year student studying Human Development and Family Studies with certificates in Food Systems, Global Health, and Sustainability, has worked with many food justice organizations at UW–Madison including Slow Food UW, where he has served as both an intern and a co-director. While developing relationships with other student organizations like the Campus Food Shed, Connor realized that many of these groups were looking not only to solve the problem of food insecurity but to understand and teach people the root causes of food insecurity. After taking on the idea for Swipe Out Hunger from a past graduate student, Connor wanted to ensure that the campaign would unite these various food justice organizations to address the problem together.
Often the stigma surrounding food access and food insecurity makes it difficult for students to reach out for help. Based on a survey from University Health Services in 2018, some students feel uncomfortable utilizing the resources provided by student organizations on campus. This is why a campaign like Swipe Out Hunger can be beneficial: it comes from the institutional level but is organized by students. Connor hopes that by having support from the university, students will feel more comfortable reaching out for help. But student input in an issue like this is still incredibly important. For example, during Swipe Out Hunger week, student volunteers were stationed at university dining halls to answer any questions about the campaign, provide campus resources for food insecurity, and help make students feel comfortable about donating.
It is critical to create a campus culture where students facing food insecurity feel comfortable utilizing campus resources that can help them overcome the problem. Connor hopes that the Swipe Out Hunger campaign “continues to grow in meaningful ways and continues to involve students, student leaders, and students that are experiencing food insecurity, because…it can really grow in the ways it needs to best serve students on campus and provide a model for other universities to follow.” His hope for the future is that students will not need to utilize these resources because they will be food secure, but if they do need them, they will always have somewhere to turn.
For students who may be struggling with food insecurity, there are many campus resources. And for students who want to help with food access and food education issues on campus, student organizations working on these issues are always looking for volunteers. Even if you are unable to volunteer, student leaders encourage you to share your knowledge about food justice organizations. That way the stigma about food insecurity is reduced and students who may be struggling can always know where to go for help and feel comfortable doing so.