The 12th Can, a student-run food pantry at Texas A&M University, started its Swipe Out Hunger program in the fall of 2017, with the first students receiving donated meals in the spring of 2018. Towards the end of each fall and spring semester, students with valid meal plans can donate up to four meal swipes to an Aggie who may not have enough meals to last until the end of the semester.
Each semester, the 12th Can collects up to 1,500 donated meals, and this fall they were able to donate to about 1,300 recipients who demonstrated financial need, said Kelly Villarreal, the assistant director of The 12th Can and business management junior.
“[The program] is pretty new, and we’re also one of the few schools in Texas that has a Swipe Out Hunger program at the University,” Villarreal said. “We don’t get the demographics of who receives the meal swipes, which helps keep it anonymous.”
Students in need of meals towards the end of the semester are able to fill out a form online and are asked to answer the question “How would you define food insecurity, and do you believe you are currently experiencing food insecurity?” After submitting the form, students can speak with Student Assistance Services (SAS) in person to discuss their financial needs.
Once financial need has been determined, meals are given out to students anonymously in blocks of 20 and 40, and they are able to purchase meals at one of the three on-campus dining halls: Sbisa, The Commons or Duncan.
Aylin Gurrusquieta, public relations director for The 12th Can and marketing senior, said students in need of meals can receive them more than once. If a student in need runs out of meals again, they are able to speak with SAS to receive another donation.
“SAS has this process because they want to make sure an Aggie doesn’t go starving,” Gurrusqieta said. “This can definitely be a recurring thing to help you out financially.”
The 12th Can only accepts donations near the end of the semester to ensure they are truly meals that would otherwise go to waste, Gurrusquieta said.
“We don’t want to take away meals from someone if that means at the end of the semester [the donater] doesn’t have meals left,” Gurrusquieta said.
Both Gurrusquieta and Villarreal said the most important factor of the Swipe Out Hunger program on campus is the act of selfless service that truly embodies the Aggie family.
“It means a lot to me that we’re able to help other Aggies,” Villarreal said. “Just realizing that you spent money on this meal plan, but instead of it just going to waste, you’re able to have the opportunity to help somebody who needs it — I think that’s really special and great that we’re able to bring this program here.”
At this point, donations have already been received for the fall 2019 semester. However, students in need are more than welcome to still apply until the end of the semester if they need meal swipes.
For those looking to donate in the future, The 12th Can encourages campus members to check their social media or website for when to donate next spring: https://www.the12thcan.org/swipe-out-hunger.html