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Swipe Out Hunger Program will not be returning to Western’s dining halls

After a change in dining hall providers, misleading website information and a lack of resources, one student has resorted to sneaking into the dining halls.

Viking Union WHOLE food pantry located in VU 435. The shelves are half-stocked with soup and produce. // Photo by Mars Wetzbarger.

Western Washington University's partnership with Swipe Out Hunger, a national program which allows students to donate meals to peers dealing with food insecurity, has been unavailable for more than half the academic year after the university switched dining hall providers from Aramark to Chartwells.

Last year, students donated 2,249 meals to Swipe Out Hunger, Assistant Dean of Student Life Michael Sledge wrote in an email. Since the switch, Chartwells has declined to participate in the program.

Instead, Chartwells has donated 150 meal vouchers to the campus Basic Needs department, said Andrew Gaynor, Chartwells’ district manager for Western dining.

The Western Swipe Out Hunger webpage says the program is suspended because of an “overwhelming demand.” 

Sledge said this is untrue. 

“The Swipe Out Hunger program ceased when the dining contract ended last summer with our previous provider,” Sledge wrote in an email. “Our current dining services provider has not indicated that they wish to revive the program.”

Chartwells is exploring options for a similar system, Gaynor said. 

“Chartwells has mentioned that they could introduce a program called Tap It Forward on campus,” wrote the Associate Director of Sustainability Engagement Institute, Lindsey MacDonald. “But we have not heard anything about whether, when, or how this program could be implemented.”

A Western student, who asked to remain anonymous due to fear of repercussions, has turned to sneaking into dining halls after the program was suspended. When the program was still in place, they used their partner’s Western ID to qualify for Swipe Out Hunger. They couldn’t qualify for the program without negatively affecting their financial aid, they said.

Western’s previous dining services provider, Aramark, partnered with Swipe Out Hunger in the spring of 2019. 

The program allowed students with unused meals to donate them via the Western Swipe Out Hunger webpage. Students needing meals could apply to get those swipes. The first quarter it was in place, students donated 1,000 meals to classmates in need, according to the site.

The anonymous Western student, who is facing food insecurity, looked into the Swipe Out Hunger program. After discussing it with the financial aid office, they were under the impression that since they were maxed out on financial aid, they couldn’t request any more support. 

“I was worried if I applied and got accepted then it would compromise how much financial aid I got," they said. “Maybe I misunderstood but that's what I was operating under.”

Heather Bryson, director of Western’s financial aid office, confirmed that if a student’s accepted financial aid would need to be adjusted to make room for the Swipe Out Hunger funding, financial aid would not approve the request. 

Federal regulations require Swipe Out Hunger meals to be documented on a student’s financial aid award, said Bryson. If financial aid met all costs of attendance or financial need, the student would be declined for Swipe Out Hunger meals.

The anonymous student said they didn’t bother applying. “The way they convey information really ain’t it,” they said. “It’s intimidating to people like myself.” 

Their girlfriend, who was not maxed out on financial aid, applied to Swipe Out Hunger on behalf of their partner in the fall of 2022. They would use their girlfriend's account to get 15-30 meals every quarter until it ended. 

“Being maxed out on financial aid, you’d think there would be more resources available,” they said.

Since the program has been suspended, the student has had to become creative. They said it’s been a struggle to not go hungry. 

Students should use Western’s Basic Needs resources and the food pantries on campus, Gaynor said. 

The anonymous student said most of the food pantries don’t have fresh food, are time-consuming and are not the same as a hot meal.

During the fall quarter, they would occasionally sneak into the dining halls to eat a hot meal, they said. “If you're gonna take away this program, then I'm not gonna not eat.”

Mars Wetzbarger

Mars Wetzbarger (they/them) is a campus life reporter for The Front. They are in their third year at Western, majoring in Environmental Journalism. In their free time you can find them climbing rocks and playing with their cat. You can contact them at

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