Share Meals, a new swipe-sharing app from the Columbia First-Generation Low-Income Partnership that saw a “soft launch” last May, will be available to all students in the coming semester following Barnard’s approval of the app this week.
Share Meals comes three years after Swipes, the first online meal-sharing initiative to hit campus. Swipes, created by Columbia students, was once hailed by student leaders as the solution for food insecurity in Columbia. The app, however, shut down after less than a year in operation due to a lack of consistent users, which stemmed from miscommunications between councils and technical flaws within the app.
Originally created by and for NYU students, Share Meals has seen remarkable success on the campus of Columbia’s downtown neighbor. The app shows where and when students can claim free dining hall swipes from other students, as well as events that are providing free food on campus. By May 2016, NYU students had donated over 1,200 meals through the app. So far, however, it is not clear whether Share Meals’ success will translate to Columbia.
Following its approval by University administrators, the app went live for Columbia College, the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and the School of General Studies students during reading week of the spring 2017 semester. Barnard has recently finished its own internal review process, but the app will not be made available to students until Barnard’s Student Government Association signs onto an agreement with FLIP regarding its use, according to SGA Representative for Food and Dining Services Sarah Broniscer. SGA is set to sign the memorandum during its next meeting.
FLIP has been hesitant to promote the app while it is not available to all undergraduate students. The group intends to begin publicizing the app once Barnard’s review process is complete. Columbia College Student Council did not begin publicizing the app until November of this year.
“This semester, it’s been more difficult because we have been trying to make sure that Barnard is on there so that we can have our hard, hard, launch,” FLIP Co-President Vicente Martinez, CC ’18 said.
Swipes itself was intended to replace the CU Meal Share Facebook page as the first option for students facing food insecurity. After Swipes’ demise, however, the Facebook page continued to be used by students looking to donate swipes.
“I think that Swipes did a number of good things, including introducing sharing swipes in an anonymous fashion. I think that’s a really big step from where we were at before,” Martinez said.
“One big big mistake that Swipes did was not being able to include Barnard emails in their sign-up. That made it very difficult for it to be an accessible solution for food insecurity for all four undergraduate schools. Share Meals does have this capability.”
Martinez also highlighted that, despite its potential, Share Meals is just one short-term solution for students facing food insecurity.
“I don’t think it’s the end-all be-all, but I think it’s definitely a good start, and it’ll open up greater conversations for longer-term solutions.”