1 in 3 college students face food insecurity nationally. In 2010, while an undergrad at UCLA, Rachel Sumekh noticed her fellow students were going hungry. She immediately sprung into action and founded Swipe Out Hunger, an organization that allows university students to donate their unused meal points to their peers and community members who are struggling with hunger. Today, they’re on more than 130 college campuses.
Listen to learn more about Rachel’s mission to eradicate hunger on college campuses one swipe at a time.
Rachel Sumekh is the Founder & CEO of Swiping Out Hunger
Rachel Sumekh (00:00):
Because there’s a difference between being a charity that just wants to make sure people get the basic thing that they need and the difference between being a systems change organization.
All Inclusive, a podcast on inclusion, innovation and social justice with Jay Ruderman.
Jay Ruderman (00:22):
Hi, I’m Jay Ruderman, and this is All Inclusive, a podcast focused on inclusion, innovation and social justice. Over 30% of college students are food insecure in America. These problems can arise because parents stop supporting once they enter college or some find themselves financially unprepared to meet their basic needs after paying for tuition. COVID-19 exacerbated the crisis, but a nonprofit organization called Swipe Out Hunger, founded by a group of friends at the University of California, Los Angeles, have been tirelessly working on this issue for over a decade now. Rachel Sumekh is the founder and CEO of the leading nonprofit in addressing hunger amongst college students. Her work has been recognized by the Obama White House, The New York Times, and landed her on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list. Rachel, welcome to All Inclusive.
Rachel Sumekh (01:23):
Thank you so much for having me, Jay. Excited to be able to get to know you and connect.
Jay Ruderman (01:28):
Great. Great. So let’s start with Swipe Out Hunger. How did it originate and how did you come up with this idea?
Rachel Sumekh (01:38):
Swipe Out Hunger is a national nonprofit focused on ending college student hunger. And I was a student at UCLA many moons ago, about 10 years ago, when me and my friends saw how many of our peers were going hungry and surviving on this ramen noodle diet. And at the same time, we as students had meal swipes that you can go into the dining hall. If anyone has not been on a college dining hall recently, let me know. We’ll get you in. There are bastions of amazing food. And we began to trade our meal swipes so that other students can go in the dining hall and get access to meals. And since then we’ve scaled this program with a university support where students can just donate their meal swipes to another student electronically, and we’ve grown that from UCLA to now 135 universities, and we have served 2 million meals today to students through dining hall trades.
Jay Ruderman (02:34):
So that’s amazing. I also was on a meal plan even much before you, and I’m wondering how you got the university to agree to give the extra points to other students, because it seems like a moneymaker for them. Students sign up for these programs. They don’t show up to every meal. The universities are still pocketing money. How did you get the universities to agree to do this?
Rachel Sumekh (03:03):
This is the million-dollar question, and the reason why we’ve been so successful, Jay, is because our movement is run by college students. So if I or you were to call… Where’d you go to undergrad?
Jay Ruderman (03:15):
I went to Brandeis.
Rachel Sumekh (03:17):
So if you were to call Brandeis, maybe you donate to Brandeis, so they will take your call. But if a normal person were to call Brandeis and say, “I want you to start this program,” Brandeis doesn’t have a responsibility to listen. But if a student at Brandeis calls their administrators and says, “I want to donate my meal swipes to my peers who are hungry,” they have to take the call, take the meeting and have a meeting and decide, “Does this program fit for us?” So we’ve been successful because we train and empower and support college students to be the ones who make the ask from the university. And college students, if they are nothing else, they are angsty and passionate and committed, and so we’ve been able to be really successful by having students lead the way. So we support them in coming up with business models, financial models that don’t disrupt the university’s budget too much, that still helps us meet the need. And sometimes, we get creative and find alternative funding sources as well.
Jay Ruderman (04:13):
And so how did you expand from UCLA to college campuses across the country?
Rachel Sumekh (04:21):
So word of mouth, as anyone in movement spaces knows, is everything, but I’ll tell you that the tipping point for us was in 2012. We got an email from the one and only President Barack Obama, or rather someone on his team, saying that he wanted to name us “Champions of Change,” which is this award series that the Obama White House had. And he said, “In two weeks, come to DC and I’m going to honor you with an award as a champion of change.” And we were able to… Obviously, the government did not pay for this. Don’t worry, but we, as a team, fundraised over $10,000 to be able to fly out our entire team to DC, be acknowledged by President Obama, get the chance to meet him. And then the press that came from that was just incredible, and it led to, within one weekend, over 30 universities reaching out to us, students at over 30 universities reaching out and saying, “How do I get this program started on my school?” And it has just been a rocket ship since then.
Jay Ruderman (05:24):
So that really propelled the organization forward. That recognition by president Obama and being there for that recognition, that really took the organization to another level.
Rachel Sumekh (05:36):
Exactly. And I think I was 18 at the time, no, maybe 19, sitting in this room with maybe 50 people, my team that we’ve built this with and President Obama telling us that we’ve done something good. And at the same time, I was getting an email from my university saying, “Maybe this program should be put on pause. We’ve already made such an impact.” So even though we’d been getting an award from the president, the university and their bureaucratic ways still wanted to find a way to shut us down and stop the program. And it was such a reinforcement point for us as young people that even if we’re being told that we shouldn’t be doing something, if we feel in our hearts that this thing needs to happen, that this needs to exist, and what better validation than the president of the United States telling you to keep going, it changed my understanding of power and authority and believing and trusting yourself at a young age.
Jay Ruderman (06:36):
Right. So I think that there’s never an end to advocacy. There’s always the next challenge and there’s always the next obstacle to over overcome. So that rings true. Let me talk to you a little bit about the core issue of hunger on college campuses, because I don’t know your situation personally, but many students have it pretty well. I mean, their parents are paying for their meal plan and they have abundance of food and whatever they want. They’re even skipping meals because they don’t like the food or they’re not hungry, but there’s also this other narrative that’s going on about the hungry college student, the poor student, and this is a rite of passage and that it’s normal for them to struggle and, like you said, eat ramen. Can you talk about these two realities and how they intersect on a college campus and maybe some of the misconceptions about food insecurity on college campuses?
Rachel Sumekh (07:46):
Thank you for this perfect framing, because it’s so true that many people think of college students as privileged, as going to college as a privilege, when we know that a college degree is now the equivalent of a high school degree. Right? Everyone needs a degree to be getting a job more than $15 an hour, so they can go on and live the life that they want to. And yet, we live in a country where 30 million American school children, from kindergarten through 12th grade, get their primary meals at school. If they didn’t get free breakfast and free lunch at their K through 12, they probably wouldn’t have a good meal that day. And so those 30 million American students who are now going off whether it’s across the street to their local community college, to a four-year school, and suddenly those meals and that support is no longer there, and yet their family’s financial situation is probably the same, if not worse. Right now, they have to pay for someone else who’s now going off to school.
Rachel Sumekh (08:42):
So our goal is to help de-stigmatize and bring awareness to the fact that college students need support. And in fact, they need support today because they’re on a path where if we support them over these next two or four years, their lifetime earning can go up so high. And so why not support them to make sure they have the food to eat to graduate? When I think about students who have a meal plan and they enter into class and they’ve had a breakfast and lunch and they’re fully focused, how does that person engage and perform versus a person that had a granola bar for lunch and thinks that that’s adequate? So it’s an equity issue, and it’s an issue that a lot of universities have started to really take up. I’ll ask a question back real quick. My favorite trivia question to ask, Jay, how many universities do you believe have their own college food pantries on them, a little food bank on campus?
Jay Ruderman (09:40):
Out of how many universities?
Rachel Sumekh (09:41):
There’s a few… Let’s say there’s 2,000 four-year universities?
Jay Ruderman (09:47):
I would say a hundred.
Rachel Sumekh (09:50):
There are 800 colleges in the United States that have a food pantry on them, and some of them are robust enough to have a several hundred thousand-dollar budget and some have a $50 budget. But it’s a sign that our universities are realizing that they need to be doing something.
Jay Ruderman (10:09):
So you seem wise beyond your years or when you started this. Where was this perception of inequity? I mean, you started this while you were in school. Tell us the story of how that came to you?
Rachel Sumekh (10:29):
Yeah. I mean, we were chatting just before this about the fact that I’m an Iranian Jew. My parents immigrated to the United States after around, my dad, before the revolution and my mom shortly after the revolution in Iran. And it was no longer a safe place or a very hospitable place for religious minorities, including Jews. And they built a new life in Los Angeles, and despite my dad having multiple degrees, we struggled as an immigrant family. My parents relied on programs like SNAP, what many people know as food stamps, for about two years. I received free breakfast and lunch at school during that time. And I saw how this program gave my parents the peace of mind to go off and achieve the American dream, for my dad to start his business, for my family to feel supported.
Rachel Sumekh (11:18):
And it just completely changed my understanding of our responsibility to one another as a society, that if a family just needs a little support to be able to go off and do what they want to do, what’s in their hearts, then maybe I have the chance to do that for someone else. And every time a student is donating their meal swipes and another student is able to eat because of our program, I’m like, “Who knows what family we’re helping?” Right? So one in four college students today are parenting students. One in four college students have kids at home. And so the responsibility of a meal goes beyond just helping that one person, but anything that I’ve learned and everything I am is because of my parents raising me with very good values and making sure that I don’t have to experience the same struggle that they did.
Jay Ruderman (12:07):
So you mentioned 800 schools that have a pantry of some sort at the school. And obviously, Swipe Out Hunger is continuing on college campuses and having success, but maybe you can talk about what more schools can do to address this issue.
Rachel Sumekh (12:29):
I love that you’re asking this question because we have to go beyond food pantries, right? We shouldn’t be proud of how many more meals we served. It’s a matter of how do we serve fewer meals every year? How do we actually solve this problem? And one of the things that universities can do is hire a full-time staff member whose job it is to support the basic needs of their students. Does the student have adequate transportation, or are they spending three hours a day each way getting to school? Does this person have childcare, or are they missing classes because they sometimes don’t have reliable childcare? Does this person have safe and stable housing? Do they have wifi where they are, or are they living in the library, taking showers at the gym?
Rachel Sumekh (13:12):
So one really proactive and preventative, and the ROI on this is huge, right? The chance to be able to bring in a university staff member to ensure that students can graduate and the students that would have the largest impact on them. So bringing in a basic needs coordinator. The second… We can talk about policy, Swipe Out Hunger. I wrote a bill in 2017 that has since sent $70 million to college campuses to fund anti-hunger work on the school. So what about our states reinvesting in higher education the way we once used to? Our states have completely disinvested. Our federal government has disinvested. How do we make sure that our schools have the funds to be able to do this work?
Jay Ruderman (13:59):
So it sounds like you’ve had tremendous impact, but maybe you can talk a little bit… First of all, we live in one of the wealthiest countries in the world, United States, that produces an abundance of food and in fact, exports a lot of food to other countries. How is it… And this is more of a general question. How is it that millions of people in America are going hungry?
Rachel Sumekh (14:29):
This is… We can start a whole new podcast about this topic. People in America are going hungry first and foremost, Jay, because we do not pay adequate wages in this country. Many people work full-time. They have more than one full-time job, and yet don’t have enough money to be able to pay for groceries. Or because they have full-time job, they’re not eligible for SNAP, which would still help them pay for grocery. So first and foremost, it starts with passing equitable and minimum wage laws and making sure that employees have their basic needs met. Secondly, we have a lot of food deserts and food apartheid in our communities where people don’t have access to proper food. And the cost is inequitable.
Rachel Sumekh (15:16):
I live in Los Angeles where there’s a stat about one-third, where in West LA, which is a pretty profitable… Think of Beverly Hills. The average grocery store rate compared to South LA, which is associated with communities like Inglewood and Compton, have a third of the grocery stores that West LA does. And then when you look at health outcomes, they have three times the rate of heart issues. They have three times the rate of diabetes. And you wonder why, right? It’s a matter of how do we… And I’m a capitalist. I know you’re a capitalist. There’s an opportunity for our for-profit system to make some changes and still be win-win and provide people what they need to really thrive. I’m curious as to what you think. Why do you think that there’s still hunger in the richest country in the world?
Jay Ruderman (16:15):
Well, I mean, I think that there’s certain amount of inequality, racism. I mean, I’m in Boston. You can go from one section of Boston where there’ll be an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables and healthy food, and drive two miles down the road and find convenience stores where most of it is packaged food that is not the healthiest, and those are the options. And why are the bigger supermarkets that are offering healthy options not in those communities? I’m sure it’s economics and just a tremendous amount of inequality. From an outsider’s point of view, that’s what I would say.
Rachel Sumekh (17:10):
Yeah. I think that the sad thing in inequalities are often making the changes needed to make something more equitable don’t cost that much and wouldn’t take that much effort, but it’s a matter of the system being so massive. Our food system is huge, right? Thinking about growing things, transporting them, storing them, selling them that if you add any more cogs to that wheel, no one knows what’s going to happen. So I think there’s a lot of reluctance to change what already exists, and especially because it’s so large. I think there’s a huge opportunity we have with local agriculture, with local community gardens, which I know are not the savior here either, but a chance to get more local because the larger food system, I think, is really reluctant to change.
Jay Ruderman (18:00):
So I saw a video where your organization not only was helping students, but actually going out into the community, to people who are living on the streets and in shelters and providing them meals. And I remember a quote from one of the gentlemen that you provided food to saying, “Who are you? Why are you providing us this food?” And you said, “We’re students.” He’s like, “I didn’t think students cared about me.” So talk about that part of your work, about how that program came about.
Rachel Sumekh (18:35):
Yeah. I mean, when we first got started… And if there are any young activists listening or old activists, anyone who wants to step into this work, it’s such a journey, right? When we began, our name was Swipes for the Homeless, and that was because in our minds, we couldn’t even differentiate between the issue of homelessness and hunger. We’re like, “Hunger, homelessness, same problem, affects all the same people and needs the same solution.” And so at the time, our first model was taking to go meals from our dining halls and handing them out to people in the community, like the gentleman. And it was mind blowing for me, as someone who hadn’t interacted so much with people who are food insecure, to realize that all people needed to realize that we care was a sandwich, was someone just coming over and say, “Hey, how are you doing? Would you be interested in this?”
Rachel Sumekh (19:28):
And the power that a person feels when someone feels so seen and acknowledged because you spent 30 seconds with them, it just makes me feel like, “Why aren’t we doing this all the time? Why aren’t we finding ways to make people in our communities seen and heard?” And we evolved from serving the community to just serving college student hunger, because there’s a difference between being a charity that just wants to make sure people get the basic thing that they need and the difference between being a systems change organization. We realized that we have the opportunity to actually end college student hunger, and I feel like my board is probably listening to this and saying, “Rachel, don’t say you’re going to end a huge problem.” Right?
Rachel Sumekh (20:11):
But I truly do believe that we can pass enough legislation, we can encourage schools to start enough programs, to the point where we actually can end college student hunger. And so we chose, few years after launching, to pivot and only serve this issue to only bring attention to this issue. And we talked about 800 food pantries existing on college campuses. 10 years ago, that number was 12. We were on one campus. And to be able to see that because of the work of a lot of passionate students, we’ve been able to grow and actually change the conversation, makes us want to be really focused on one system. I want nonprofits to say “Mission accomplished” one day, like “We did this. We don’t need to exist forever.”
Jay Ruderman (20:59):
Right. So let me ask you. You’ve chosen… I mean, you graduated from UCLA. You chose to be an activist. You chose to have a positive impact on our social society, whereas I’m sure many of your fellow graduates went on to work in venture capital firms, law school, the entertainment industry, and really focused on making money. Talk to me about that journey of how you chose to be an activist and stayed as an activist and what does that give to you and how do you talk to your friends and colleagues who are like, “Yeah, why don’t you just go out and get a job where you can make more money?”
Rachel Sumekh (21:53):
I mean, I heard that question said to me by many of my family members, many people I grew up with, and someone gave me the advice that had two questions. And it said… Actually three, technically. So the first one was, “Is there anywhere else in the world I’d be learning more about myself?” And working with Swipe Out Hunger, helping our movement grow, I was meeting people, fundraising. There’s nowhere else in the world I’d be learning more about myself, especially when I started this as a 21 year old full-time. Second question was, “Is there anywhere else I’d be having more of an impact?” And there absolutely would not be. And the third was, “Am I able to put a roof over my head?” And I’m very fortunate that when I was getting started, my parents still had my bedroom somewhat intact. I was able to move back home and not have to worry about that for the first year or two, which was a huge privilege. So many people who want to start companies don’t have the privilege of not worrying about rent.
Rachel Sumekh (22:51):
But I think for me, I believe that people need to have power to be successful and to make the change they believe in. I think money is a form of power. So while I did not go into venture capital or tech or real estate, I’m able to connect with people who have resources and bring them along this journey, have them join our team and leverage their capital to be able to make the change that we need in the world.
Jay Ruderman (23:19):
And obviously, based on your personality and your ability to put yourself out there and to be proactive, they’re contributing to your work. Are you receiving the respect that you want to receive for what you’re doing?
Rachel Sumekh (23:39):
I love that you asked this question, especially knowing your background as someone who’s been a huge advocate for inclusion. I think that people feeling seen and respected and being treated with dignity is so essential, and as a young Iranian Jewish female who wears my hair big and curly and natural and it’s who I am fully in every room I walk into, I absolutely have not been treated with respect all the time. Right? Especially when I was starting out and I wasn’t on the Forbes list yet. And I wasn’t super successful in metrics in the way people would define. Of course, that’s changed significantly now. I think primarily because of those things, but also because I recognize that all those identities that I have were the biggest assets.
Rachel Sumekh (24:28):
Being Iranian made me the warmest person in the room. I would hug people. I’d smile. I make jokes. I asked about people’s family members. I started to say like, “Why am I trying to act more white or mainstream? I should fully be myself because that’s what these faces need.” Same with being a woman, I’m allowed to smile all the time and be caring and who doesn’t want to talk to someone who’s smiling. And so I think a big part of it was owning those traits for myself while still being completely aware of what people will treat me like when my hair is straight versus curly or when I’m wearing my denim jacket or a nice suit. But I think that if we lived in a world where everyone was respected from the moment they walked into a room, it would be a much better place.
Jay Ruderman (25:13):
Can you tell us… I don’t want to put you on the spot, but maybe a couple of stories, a positive and maybe a not so positive story about being engaged in activism, and one story that you’re like, wow, this will keep you going, and another story where you’re like, “Well, I really had to pull myself up from after this happened.”
Rachel Sumekh (25:34):
I’m a really optimistic person, so I usually focus on the former, but of course, many of the latter have happened. I think the moments for me… Our entire movement is run by college students, and I remember when a few students at Spelman and Morehouse in Atlanta reached out and said, “We want to get a Swipe program started.” We gave them our toolkits, had prep calls, walked them through the process, and they reached out to the university and the university said, “We’re not going to entertain this program.” They had other priorities happening and they weren’t going to consider it. The next day, our students called us and said, “The school wasn’t down, so we’re going to go on a hunger strike.” And I became a little terrified. What do you mean a hunger strike? He said, “We’re going to have a press conference tomorrow. We’re going to announce that we’re going on a hunger strike until our administrations approve this program.”
Rachel Sumekh (26:27):
And they did. They did exactly that. They got a coverage across the country. He had a press release and said, “We’re only drinking water until our school approves the program,” and the school did it. The school gave in to the pressure and now Spelman and Morehouse gave away 14,000 dining hall meals, and it’s grown even beyond that. It’s a core program that they have now on their campuses. So moments like that where I was afraid. I’m like, “Oh, that’s risky. You sure you don’t want to ask for another meeting?” And our students are like, “No. I sit next to someone who’s hungry, who’s eating a granola bar for lunch and thinks that’s okay. I’m not going to just be okay with the fact that you have some building being built and I have to wait until you’re ready for me.” Those are the things that keep me going, that there’s a next generation that’s even more committed and more passionate and willing to risk more to create a better world.
Rachel Sumekh (27:21):
And the opposite happens all the time, too, where administrators come back to us and say things that just break your heart and you’re like, “Have you not spoken to a student recently? Where do you think that comes from?” But Jay, those stories are far and few between. The world we live in now has changed and people recognize that they need to be in touch with people on the ground. They need to be hearing the stories and understanding the needs. Especially coming out of COVID, no one can know what people’s needs are. This has never happened before. We have to be asking our constituents, our students, whoever we’re serving, what their needs are today and now. And I think for me, some of the hardest moments have been… I don’t know. It’s always the moments just before a big win, when people doubt and you doubt yourself and you question, but you keep going, and the sadness just before that of like, “Okay. We’re going to have to do this alone, or it’s just going to be us.” But again, I don’t know. I just stay really focused on the bright spots.
Jay Ruderman (28:30):
Yeah. It is a journey. And you’ve had amazing success. I’d like to ask you, do you find that there’s a difference between state schools, community schools, and private institutions as to how they react to this issue?
Rachel Sumekh (28:50):
Staying on the theme of people, the biggest indicator of if our program will be well-received is how big is the heart of the person who we’re talking to, whether it’s the head of the dining services or it’s a student life leader or a dean. If that person has had any exposure to student life, they will be on it. Right? They’ll go out of their way to make it successful, whether they’re a four-year, private, public. And so that’s the most exciting part, being able to connect with people who understand. And for those who don’t, spending the time to educate them. Right? Our students are amazing teachers and they go out of their way to educate their partners.
Rachel Sumekh (29:30):
And I think that the biggest difference between two-year or four-year or others is, is the school okay with being known for having low-income students there? Because they have to be able to promote these programs. Right? It doesn’t matter how many amazing programs you have. If you’re not promoting them, if there’s still a stigma attached with asking for help, then it’s not going to get very far. So I think our job is to make sure that whoever we’re talking to is not just going to adopt these programs, but be willing to say, “UCLA is the best school to go to if you are food insecure student,” or “We have the biggest food closet,” or “We have the most robust SNAP enrollment program.” We want schools to be able to be proud of saying that.
Jay Ruderman (30:19):
Yeah, I do agree with you based on my 20 years as an activist that it’s your partners that really make things successful. When you meet someone that not only hears you on a basic level, but internalizes it that they’re like, “I understand where you’re coming from. I agree with it. I’m going to help you do it,” I mean, that’s what you’re looking for. And there’s a lot of good people, and you’re right. We are all interconnected. And unfortunately society is often set up where people believe they’re not interconnected, that it’s us and them, but it’s really not about us and them. And I think when you meet people that see that we’re all interconnected, that’s when you have success.
Rachel Sumekh (31:11):
And then you get to build something new together, right? Suddenly it goes from something that you’re presenting to this partner coming in and saying, “I also want to do this with you.” And something new happens that would have never happened before, and it’s better than before.
Jay Ruderman (31:25):
Right. So let me ask you… I mean, we’re coming hopefully, emerging out of COVID, and one out of three college students experienced food insecurity during the pandemic. How did your organization deal with this, and what new challenges emerged?
Rachel Sumekh (31:50):
Well, I got my first gray hairs, and one of the first things that one of my mentors said to me coming into this was, “Rachel, you’ve gotten really far based on trusting your gut and your relationship skills, but what’s about to happen in the world is much stronger than your gut.” And I’m very thankful to [John Kamara 00:32:08] for those words, because it helped me take off my rose-colored glasses and do the opposite of retreat. Right? We served more meals this year than we’ve ever served. We fundraised more dollars than we’ve ever fundraised. We doubled our team. We started new programs. I think the most impactful program that we started was something called the Student Peer Navigators, where we hired college students, paid them living wages, train them on how to help students enroll in unemployment and food stamps and health insurance, and getting connected to local resources.
Rachel Sumekh (32:43):
And we were able to help over 5,000 college students access over a million dollars in benefits, and we’ve since taken that program to other cities. Right? We’re in New York now running this program at the CUNY system. If anyone is in New York and needs access to food, go to our website. You’ll connect with a college student immediately. And what I love about this is that students were helping students. Right? We were, first of all, employing students and they were helping their peers get access to these highly leverageable resources. And there’s something just so joyful about reminding people that you don’t need to go to some big ivory tower to get help, but people in your own community can help you, and we can empower people to fill that role.
Jay Ruderman (33:25):
Where do you see Swipe Out Hunger in the next five years?
Rachel Sumekh (33:31):
In the next five years, I believe we’ll be in a world where universities don’t need an outside nonprofit to come in and tell them that they should show up for their students, but we’ll live in a world where U.S. News & World Report will be ranking universities based on who has the best food pantry. Right? Moving onto metrics that actually matter in to so many students’ lives. We’ll have passed our bill in multiple new states. We’ve already passed it in four, and we’ll have to continue to grow our movement to empower more and more students to make the changes they want on their campus.
Jay Ruderman (34:04):
So Rachel, I want to end with a very broad question and feel free to take this however you feel fit. Do you ever think that we’ll overcome food insecurity in America? And how can that happen?
Rachel Sumekh (34:22):
I think that the first step to addressing any issue is to have a very clear understanding of why it exists. And so if we live in a world where the people who manage our food systems, the people who run our food companies, are thinking about their responsibility to other people in the community who they seek to serve, that will be the first step. How can we… The same way, a very famous business reference is Coca-Cola, that they can get their bottles of Coke to even the remote villages around the world. If they can do that, how can we get food there? So how do we leverage our systems to actually have food reach people? But in short, I would go back to policy. It’s about getting dollars into the hands of people and into the hands of institutions and communities that’ll serve people.
Rachel Sumekh (35:14):
Throughout this podcast, I’ve been saying that I’m an idealistic person, and I do believe that we’ll get to the point where we will have a community and a world where people are not hungry. And I think that that’ll only happen when multiple sectors come together, when people who run our food companies realize that they have an opportunity to help end hunger, when activists and community spaces are working alongside policy makers, and we have policy people and business coming together to say, “What are we doing here? We’re living in a world with so much food, and yet there are hungry people.” And are we committed to changing that or not? And if someone says no, then it’s our responsibility to have tactics to get them on the right team, but I think it’ll only really happen when we come together and I’m hopeful because every day I see it happen. I see our students and our companies and our universities come together. So I remain hopeful that we will, but only if we remain critical as well, and we stick to the ground and do the work.
Jay Ruderman (36:16):
Well, Rachel, thank you so much for joining us. This was a really informative discussion. You’ve had such an impact on our world, and I’m sure will continue to have a greater impact. So I appreciate your time and I appreciate what you do for our society, and I want to thank you for being our guest today.
Rachel Sumekh (36:37):
Thank you so much, Jay. If anyone listening wants to get involved in the fight to end college student hunger, you can head to swipehunger.org, and it’s such a privilege to be able to share a bit of our work with you.
All Inclusive is a production of the Ruderman Family Foundation. Our key mission is the full inclusion of people with disabilities in all aspects of society. You can find All Inclusive on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify and Stitcher. To view the show notes, transcripts, or to learn more, go to rudermanfoundation.org/allinclusive. Have an idea for a podcast, be sure to tweet @JayRuderman.