Seattle Pacific University Dining Services general manager Kim Karstens hopes to have a pilot program for assisting students facing food insecurity customized and ready to roll out on campus by the winter quarter.

SPU is one of 13 college campuses included in a Meal Swipe Banks program being carried out through a partnership between nonprofit Swipe Out Hunger and Sodexo, a Fortune 500 company that provides integrated food service and facilities management at 13,000 sites across the country.

“It will probably have to go through a couple layers of approval, but I think it will move pretty quickly,” said Karstens, who actually works for Sodexo, which manages food services at SPU.

Swipe Out Hunger CEO Rachel Sumekh said Sodexo approached the about starting the new program in fall 2018. While students living on campuses are required to have a meal plan, there are low-income students living offsite and struggling with housing and other expenses.

Swipe Out Hunger’s flagship program, The Swipe Drive, allows students to donate their unused meal plan swipes to peers in need. The nonprofit reports its 2019 impact study found more than half of those students who received donated swipes reported doing better in class and on exams.

Through the Meal Swipe Bank program, Sodexo has committed to providing two free meals for every full-time meal plan sold, which is estimated to total more than 25,000 meals annually across the 13 pilot campuses.

“Sodexo is making that contribution in kind to establish the bank at the beginning of the semester,” said Leila Costa, director of sustainability for Sodexo Universities.

Karstens said SPU has about 1,200 students with full-time meal plans, which would amount to 2,400 free meals being provided by Sodexo if that number stays the same next quarter.

“It may not be quite that high, but it should be close to that to start out this year,” she said.

Sumekh said ideally the free meals being provided by Sodexo would be loaded onto a student’s ID card, so they can make dining purchases the same as students who have full-time meal plans.

“It really is an announcement that we’ve been working toward and building that relation with Swipe Out Hunger,” Costa said. “I get requests weekly from campuses that want to start this Swipe Out Hunger program on their campus.”

The Meal Swipe Bank program will be customized to fit every campus, and how the free meals are apportioned to students facing food insecurity will involve coordinating with a number of departments at each college and university. Costa said there will be an online process for students to self-identify as food insecure.

Karstens said the program will be customized at SPU by working with leaders in departments that include student life, resident life, student finance and housing. She said the president for the Associated Students of Seattle Pacific is also a strong supporter of helping students with these types of basic needs.

“This fits perfect with where we want to go with supporting our SPU students,” she said.

Because Sodexo doesn’t know how many students are facing food insecurity, using two meals per full-time meal plan is a good guide, Karstens said, and the hope is that students may look at the program and want to chip in to the Meal Swipe Bank in the future.

“We don’t have a food pantry on campus — some universities do — so this is a really great way to support those students in need,” she said.