By Emma Thomson
In hopes of implementing change regarding food insecurity for its students, Fitchburg State University’s Student Development Office, OneCard Office, and Chartwells Dining Service have collaborated to create a new campus-wide program called, “Falcons Swipe It Forward.”
This program allows Fitchburg State students to donate one guest swipe per semester to another student who is in need due to the effects of food insecurity. The donated swipes are then put into a specific bank developed by the OneCard Office, and the meals can be requested through Community Partners on behalf of reviewed students. Based on need, the swipes are then placed onto students’ OneCards in increments of five.
According to the Associate Dean of Student Development, Hank Parkinson, the students of FSU have already donated 209 guest swipes to the “Swipe It Forward” program in the few weeks since the program became available.
Jeff McVoy, the director of Dining Services at Fitchburg State, recognizes the importance of the students who have donated for the sake and well-being of their peers. “I think it’s important to note that we are just very simply providing the means for the students to donate. The students who are donating to the cause is the important thing; they are the ones who are ultimately giving through this program,” he said.
For some Fitchburg State students, the difficulties faced by food insecurity are all too familiar. According to survey data presented by the Student Development Office and completed by 168 students who attend Fitchburg State, approximately 36% of them confirmed that they previously ate smaller portions or even skipped whole meals because they lacked the means to buy more food. 44% said they could not afford to eat balanced meals. Additionally, 12% of those students answered that they were at some point homeless.
The subject of food insecurity is significantly personal to some FSU staff members as well, including one of the “Swipe It Forward” organizers and Housing and Residential Service employees, Heather Mazzaferro. “…I will share that growing up I was a free and reduced breakfast & lunch kid, K-12. Food insecurity is near and dear to my heart. I also managed Ginny’s Food Pantry in Leominster for three years, so I have intimate firsthand experience helping people that are homeless as well as food insecure,” Mazzaferro said. She hopes that through this program, the concept of assistance will be normalized both on and off the Fitchburg State campus.
“Falcons Swipe It Forward” is only one of the three programs that the Food Insecurity Committee has worked diligently to establish. The other campaigns, “The Falcon Bazaar” and “Green Bags,” also function to prevent student food insecurity on the FSU campus. Soon, the committee plans on furthering their programs and taking steps to tackle food recovery, homelessness and housing insecurity for the Falcons of Fitchburg State University.
“We have an opportunity to make a positive impact, and we should always take those opportunities,” Jeff McVoy stated. The Falcons hope to get the flock together and make changes to fly past housing and food insecurities.