Swipes for the Homeless Program Allows Students to Donate Leftover Dining Dollars


UCSD undergraduates Daniel Farahdel, Brad Segal and Shashank Gupta opened the UCSD chapter of Swipes this spring. The program collaborates with local food banks and housing and dining services at different universities to provide food for the homeless by collecting dining dollars that students donate. 

Swipes first began at UCLA in September 2009 and spread to a number of universities such as UCSB, USC and UC Berkeley.

UCSD students can either sign up at tabling events on Library Walk to pledge their unused dining dollars to be donated to the San Diego Food Bank or use the automatic “opt-in” feature on TritonLink that the UCSD chapter introduced.

“When you opt in, there is no commitment to saving your dining dollars,” Gupta said. “Oftentimes, students will buy food that will go to waste, but simply conserving a few dollars a day can go into helping so many homeless people.”

Swipes at UCSD reaches out to the entire San Diego area. The agreed dining dollar-to-U.S. dollar conversion gives one full meal per dining dollar to anyone in need, so even a couple of dollars can make a big difference. 

Currently, the founders of Swipes are working on a quarterly volunteer program with a busing system that will ferry students to the San Diego Food Bank in order to help package and ship the food that they have donated with their dining dollars.

The founders want to integrate the program into the UCSD culture. But to found the program, they had to work with the A.S. Council and UCSD Housing, Dining and Hospitality to push the idea forward and negotiate donation policies.

“We wouldn’t be able to do this without Housing and Dining and [executive director] Mark Cunningham’s help; his engagement was the make-or-break for us,” Segal said.

The founders hope to do more tabling around dining halls, foster outreach education to raise awareness and activism for the homeless and encourage student involvement in hunger outreach.

They plan to send the donated money to the food bank after finals week and will continue to send checks each quarter.

“Swipes for the Homeless gives students another option of what to do with leftover money,” Segal said. “It’s like charity out of convenience. Even the smallest donations can help.”

Swipes will host a series of tabling events and informational meetings on homeless outreach and hunger awareness. The next information session will be held on Tuesday, May 28, in the Green Table Room next to Sun God Lounge in Price Center West at 7 p.m. More information regarding Swipes can be found on the organization’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/SwipesForTheHomelessUCSD.