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Swipe Out Hunger's chapter at Penn launches its new initiative: the $4 Snap Challenge.

Credit: Ritika Philip

The young Penn chapter of the national organization Swipe Out Hunger is planning to expand its efforts this fall.

In addition to bringing back meal-swipe donation days, Swipe Out Hunger is incorporating new efforts, such as a $4 Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program challenge, into their program this school year. The organization is currently led by Wharton junior Grace Kirkpatrick, since its founders, College juniors Liza Lansing and Jessie Abrams, are abroad.

“I really want to see Swipe Out Hunger Penn solidify its campus presence,” Kirkpatrick said.

The group’s main effort this semester is introducing the $4 SNAP challenge, in which participants are only allowed to spend the amount of money that those on SNAP benefits have, for a single meal. Swipe Out Hunger Penn, also known as Swipes, hopes that in taking the $4 SNAP challenge — which was undertaken earlier this year by Gwyneth Paltrow — participants will further understand food insecurity, a problem faced by a large number of West Philadelphians.

In planning the $4 SNAP challenge, Swipes hopes to engage the group of upperclassmen who aren’t necessarily on the meal plan. The challenge is set to occur during Hunger Awareness Week.

Additionally, Swipe Out Hunger Penn will be hosting a number of volunteer days at Philabundance, a nonprofit food bank that serves the Philadelphia region. Last semester, all the money raised from the donation days went to Philabundance.

“Based on the money we raised, we were able to give out 14,000 meals last year,” said College sophomore Jake Wieseneck, Swipe Out Hunger Penn’s marketing coordinator.

Swipe Out Hunger is a national organization that has been recognized by the White House, Forbes and The Case Foundation. Its arrival at Penn was prompted by two students’ experience with a classroom project.

After taking an Academically Based Service Class taught by Netter Center Director Ira Harkavy in which students were given the assignment of identifying a problem in the local Philadelphia community and proposing a solution, founders Lansing and Abrams decided to bring Swipe Out Hunger to Penn.

Spring 2015 was the first semester for Swipe Out Hunger Penn, and the group focused solely on donation days.

“We had to educate all students on meal plans about our movement, and explain how and when to get involved,” Lansing said in an email.

A big part of operating Swipe Out Hunger is meeting and negotiating with Penn Dining and Bon Appétit, something that Swipes’ members acknowledge is not always easy.

“At first, Swipes was really an organization based off whatever give and take we could get with Penn Dining,” Wieseneck said.

Kirkpatrick’s responsibilities as vice president include meeting and negotiating with Penn Dining. “It’s been very interesting working with Penn Dining. There have been a lot of positives to working with a large organization,” she said.

The most helpful thing Penn Dining has done for Swipes is connecting the organization with experts and other people they know, such as Bon Appétit’s “food fellow,” who has played a large role in bringing about the $4 SNAP challenge.

However, working with such a large organization has its drawbacks as well. “Whenever you’re dealing with a company, you have to balance their interests with our interests,” Kirkpatrick said.

Swipes ultimately cuts into Bon Appétit’s profits, since they donate a portion of the money they would have gained from each unused swipe. Proving to Bon Appétit that losing profits is worthwhile because Swipes is a dedicated program has been their biggest challenge, Lansing said.

Looking toward the spring semester, Kirkpatrick and Wieseneck have further goals in mind. Kirkpatrick would like to see Swipes team up and collaborate with other groups and organizations, while Wieseneck hopes to expand their advocacy efforts.

Swipes is currently working with Penn Recreation to set up a 5K in the spring, proceeds of which would go to Philabundence.

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