Swipe Out Hunger’s CUNY Student Food Navigator Program is Helping CUNY Students Access Food Resources

by Melissa Gallanter, RD

Name: CUNY Student Food Navigator Program

What They Do: Launched by Swipe Out Hunger, the CUNY Student Food Navigator program is a one-on-one online student referral service that provides CUNY students with customized support from trained student food navigators on how to apply for SNAP benefits and  find NYC food resources. 

How They Do It: Any CUNY student who is experiencing food insecurity can fill out a form at swipehunger.org/cunysnn or text FOOD to 855.230.6746 to contact a fellow CUNY student who has been trained as a navigator and will walk the applicant  through the process of qualifying for SNAP and provide other tailored resource referrals. 

Mission: Swipe Out Hunger partners with colleges and universities to end college-student hunger. Its work is based on the belief that programs should be sustainable, innovative, student-centric, and destigmatizing. The peer-to-peer nature of the CUNY Student Food Navigator program complements Swipe Out Hunger’s approach to anti-hunger programs by leveraging the power of student relationships to end hunger on campus. 

Latest project/campaign: In December 2020, Congress passed legislation that temporarily changes SNAP eligibility requirements for students.  As part of the COVID Relief Package, college students who are enrolled at least half-time and meet other income and eligibility requirements can now qualify for SNAP without being subject to the 20-hour-week work requirement. 

This new rule will create an opportunity for tens of thousands of CUNY students to become eligible for SNAP benefits – increasing the need, scale and scope of the CUNY Student Food Navigator program and providing a pathway to greatly reduce food insecurity among CUNY students and their families.

Major Funding: Following the success of a National Student Navigator pilot launched in 2020 by Swipe Out Hunger and partnering nonprofit Rise, Swipe Out Hunger received a gift from the Robin Hood Foundation to launch the CUNY Student Food Navigator program. 

Profit/nonprofit: Nonprofit 

Annual Revenue: N/A

Interesting fact about how they are working to positively affect the food system:   As one of the largest university systems in the country, CUNY provides more than 275,000 students across the five boroughs the lifelong benefits of a college degree and higher education. Like New York City itself, the CUNY system represents the best of the American dream, one that enables students from every background and corner of the globe to achieve their goals. No higher education system in the country is as successful as CUNY at graduating students from low-income and first generation Americans. In fact, nearly 40 percent of the system’s student population comes from households earning less than $20,000 a year, and according to a 2018 Healthy CUNY survey, nearly 1 in 5 CUNY students have experienced food insecurity in the last year. The economic storm caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has continued to impact already-struggling students. With fewer jobs, losses of income, extra costs and rising rents, students are finding it more difficult than ever to access’ basic needs such as adequate and nutritious food. 



Location: New York City 

Core Programs: 1:1 online food navigator program run by and for CUNY students. 

Number of staff: 4 student navigators, 1 student navigator manager, support from 3 Swipe Out Hunger staff

Number of volunteers: N/A

Number of coworking members: N/A

Areas served: New York City

Year Started: 2021

CEO: Rachel Sumekh

Contact Information: team@swipehunger.org

Website: https://www.swipehunger.org/cunysnn/

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