Friday, November 24

Swipes for the Homeless collects leftover student meals for cause

Swipes for the Homeless will be accepting food-swipe donations today and will deliver hot meals and snacks to homeless individuals this Saturday.

Swipes for the Homeless will be accepting food-swipe donations today and will deliver hot meals and snacks to homeless individuals this Saturday. Courtesy of Bryan Pezehski

Within 20 minutes of setting up, Swipes for the Homeless had collected 60 donated meal swipes and expected many more to come.

Swipes for the Homeless, which began Wednesday and will conclude at 10 p.m. today, collects hundreds of leftover meal swipes to convert into warm meals and snacks for homeless individuals in Los Angeles.

Volunteers have set up a table between Bruin Café and Covel Commons where students living on the Hill can donate their swipes. Several posters with facts and statistics have been set up around the table to help students gain a better understanding of homelessness in the surrounding region.

On Saturday afternoon, the meals will be distributed to seven homeless shelters throughout downtown Los Angeles and Santa Monica as well as on the streets of Skid Row, a neighborhood with an extremely high rate of homelessness.

A percentage of the meals will also be donated to UCLA’s Food Closet, a food bank that serves hungry UCLA students with limited financial means.

This quarter, Swipes for the Homeless teamed up with the Undergraduate Students Association Council to expand the project and reach a greater number of people, said Bryan Pezeshki, a second-year neuroscience student and co-director of Swipes for the Homeless.

Along with collecting the greatest number of swipes as possible, Swipes for the Homeless seeks to educate students about the problem of homelessness.

“Living on campus takes you out of the perspective of what is going on in the surrounding community, and students don’t realize how great the problem is in Los Angeles,” Pezeshki said.

For the past four years, volunteers have set up a table in front of Bruin Café and asked students to buy and donate a sandwich or a salad. Before, to prevent the food from spoiling, the program director had to drive down to Skid Row and give away the food the very same day it was collected.

This quarter, students can donate a certain amount of swipes, which are then used to make individual hot meals in the dining halls.

“The problem before was that the food was just sitting there for awhile, and it would go bad before we could give it to the homeless,” Pezeshki said. “This time, the dining staff will make (all the food) at once.”

In addition, Swipes for the Homeless accepts canned food and nonperishable items for distribution.

Student volunteers will also directly serve the donated meals to guests at Midnight Mission, one of the recipient shelters in downtown Los Angeles, on Saturday.

“The people here are usually very isolated, so they thrive on the contact they have with students,” said Orlando Ward, director of program services at Midnight Mission. “We all need to feel connected and thought of, and those are some the values that (the guests) take away from the exchange.”

At the end of fall quarter, Swipes for the Homeless collected a total of 350 meal swipes. This quarter, the student organization has set a goal of 800, Pezeshki said.

The dining hall will prepare a maximum of 575 hot meals, said Rustom Birdie, a second-year economics student and chief of staff for the USAC General Representative 3 office.

The rest of the meal swipes will go toward small snack items, such as chips, fruit and bottled water.

“We tried to choose the healthiest food, which includes chicken, fruits and vegetables,” Pezeshki said. “(The dining staff) will also make pizzas.”

Pezeshki and Birdie said they hope the quarterly event will help promote awareness of the conditions of homeless people.

“We are trying to educate the students on campus about a cause that most of them wouldn’t think about otherwise,” Pezeshki said.

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