Swipe Out Hunger: A National Food Aid Program Taking Place At LBCC
According to Lawrence LaJoie, the Director of Enterprise Services at LBCC, the program normally works by taking funds from a campus’ meal plan program and using them to cover food cards to be handed out to students in need. LaJoie came up with the idea of funding the program using the “rounding up” donation that you may have seen at food vendors throughout the campus.
NUT GRAPH here that gives an overview of the program and how much it has raised for students…
The biggest difficulty the program faced early on was its original distribution method. At first, students needed to submit a Google form, which would send a notification to four different people for confirmation. The problem with this method, according to LaJoie, was that these four people often weren’t able to respond to the notifications fast enough. As the purpose of the program is to provide students with a little extra money for a quick meal, LaJoie and others spent the rest of last fall term coming up with an easier method.
The new plan that they came up with is both simple and accessible: Simply go to the First Resort desk in the Learning Center and ask for a food card. After filling out a short form, you’ll receive a $10 card valid at any food vendor on campus as well as contact information for other food aid programs.
Abby Grewatz is the First Resort Coordinator in charge of distributing the Swipe Out Hunger food cards.
“I think there are a lot of students here on campus who are experiencing food insecurity,” said Grewatz. “Sometimes it feels like there aren’t a lot of things that we can do to help with that.”
Few people go to the Learning Center intending on asking for a food card, Grewatz said. Often times she’ll offer it to someone if it sounds like they might need it, when they say things like they haven’t had the chance to get lunch, or that they don’t have the money for it that day.
First and foremost, she wants people to feel comfortable with coming in and asking for it, elaborating on how easy the application process is. “We don’t ask questions here,” she said. “If someone comes in to ask for a food card, we’re not going to quiz them on anything. We’re not going to interrogate them. If they need a card, we give them a card.”
Grewatz also expanded on how the application process works. The form is a small sheet of paper on which an applicant writes their name, the date, and their X-number. This information is only used to keep track of how many people have used the program. After completing the form, students are given an envelope that contains the food card as well as contact information for the other aid programs.
Grewatz said that giving students information about the other available programs is even more important than giving them the food cards. When asked if students could apply for the food card multiple times a term, she said yes. However, she also said that if a person’s food needs are urgent enough to require the card then they should strongly consider looking into some of the other programs.
One of these options is called the “Linn-Benton Lunch Box.” Run by the Student Leadership Council, students can go through a simple application process at the Student Union office located in CC 213 at the Northeast end of the courtyard and pick up a certain amount of groceries depending on how many people live in their household. This program is currently available for students to use twice a year.
The other option that both LaJoie and Grewatz had a lot to say about was food stamps. Otherwise known as SNAP (supplemental nutrition assistance program), they are a valuable resource that too few students on campus make use of. According to LaJoie, applying for food stamps carries a certain stigma with students; He believes students in need of money for food should feel free to seek out anything that might help them.
“They think that accepting those types of benefits prevents somebody else from getting them, but that’s not true,” he said. “If you’re eligible, you’re eligible; you’re not preventing anyone else from getting those benefits. You’re entitled to them if you meet the criteria.”
He also spoke about how eligibility for college students works. “It used to be tied directly to work requirements. It still is, but there’s still an easier way for students to become SNAP-eligible without work requirements. If they’re a [current] student, they’re pursuing a degree, and they don’t live with their parents, it’s much easier for them to become eligible for SNAP benefits.”
For other benefits available to students facing food insecurities, contact Amanda Stanley, LBCC program coordinator and resource navigator, at the Roadrunner Resource Center in Takena Hall or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Story by Bowen Orcutt
At a Glance:
SNAP/Food Stamps website: