The UC Santa Barbara chapter of the Young Democratic Socialists of America rallied in front of the UC Santa Barbara Campus Dining office on Feb. 23 to advocate for meal swipe rollovers at campus dining commons. The action follows a petition that garnered over 2,200 signatories — 10% of the student population. 

UCSB is one of only two UC campuses that doesn’t allow meal swipe rollovers or meal swipe sharing. Bryce Hutchins/Daily Nexus

The organization is campaigning for meal swipe reform across the four campus dining halls, including meal swipe rollovers each week, rather than leftover meal swipes being unusable for the rest of the meal plan period. Currently, UCSB is one of only two UC campuses that doesn’t allow meal swipe rollovers or meal swipe sharing. 

The campaign is the third documented effort by students to get rollovers, with previous efforts shot down by the university. Previously, the university reasoned that rollovers wouldn’t be tenable due to the way meal ratios are calculated to account for missed meals. 

The rally began in front of Storke Tower at 11 a.m. with approximately 30 YDSA members and allies attending.  

“We are here today because the same reason student workers are paid minimum wage is the same reason workers can’t find affordable housing is the same reason why we go hungry,” fourth-year biology major and YDSA internal affairs chair Uma Clemenceau said to the group. “One in two students here are food insecure — What the fuck. This is not an isolated problem. This is a symptom of capitalism and specifically, this is a symptom of the university running as a for-profit institution.”

Clemenceau said the university has been running an “austerity regime,” where “working-class students have to take out loans and work multiple jobs to afford tuition, while the school uses budget cuts, like not allowing meal swipe rollovers, to maximize on their profits.”  

“The time is now for [UCSB Campus Dining Executive Director] Jill Horst and the university to accept our demands and allow for rollover meal swipes in this ongoing effort to fight against austerity and the privatization of public education,” she continued.

The group marched to the Campus Dining building, chanting “Hunger poverty, we can’t ignore. Roll over now, give students more,” “We won’t back down, no retreat. Reform meal swipes or face the heat” and “Ain’t no power like the power of the people and the power of the people won’t stop,” among other chants.

In front of the building, second-year psychological & brain sciences major and YDSA outreach chair Clay Dau said despite working 15-20 hours a week at Portola Dining Commons, they live on “the edge of poverty.”

“I’m forced to ration my swipes, dreading to run out of food on the weekends. My attempts to seek aid in food banks and the limited campus resources have proven inadequate. It’s just not enough for a lot of us to get by,” Dau said.

“UCSB says they care about marginalized people and they love to parade marginalized people around, tokenizing them and they love to talk about the diversity at the school. But they clearly don’t give a fuck about us enough to take care of the poor and the working class,” they continued.

She also protested how UCSB removed its meal swipe donation program through the A.S. Food Bank, despite it having “no additional cost to them.”

“Nearly 50% of UCSB students face food insecurity according to the university’s own statistics. This is a travesty and an affront to our basic human rights,” Dau said. “It is time to dismantle the chains of hunger that bind this campus. It is time for radical change: a shift toward a system to prioritizes the wellbeing of its students rather than its profit margins.” 

Several YDSA members read student testimonies collected in the YDSA petition. The stories described struggles of going hungry because meal swipes didn’t roll over, being constricted by a small meal plan and feeling stress from constantly planning and rationing their swipes. Students also expressed they would intentionally limit their meal plans to qualify for CalFresh and other financial aid and that having to ration fueled disordered eating.

“When I was on a meal plan, I had to choose between eating two meals or one meal a day. I was hungry, had no financial support from my family to get more food and didn’t qualify for CalFresh,” a YDSA member read. 

“I dealt with food insecurity the two years I lived in the dorms due to the food policy that didn’t allow meal rollover, even though I paid for each of those meals. I’ve never been more hungry and malnourished in my life. I feel weak most of the time and I rarely have enough energy to bike to class,” another YDSA member read.

Student statements also expressed a desire to be able to use all the swipes they paid for, prevent dining hall food waste and donate leftover swipes.

“Why can’t I save up meal swipes for the following week at times when I’m too busy to use them all? It doesn’t make sense. We pay too much in tuition to have to starve half of the week,” a YDSA member read. 

“As a student dining worker, I’m continuously frustrated by low pay and poor working conditions. The fact that I have to throw out pounds and pounds of food each shift while I or no one else can’t take any food to eat is appalling,” they continued. “The food shortage amongst students in the I.V. community is deeply concerning and should’ve been addressed by the university years ago.”

The rally began in front of Storke Tower at 11 a.m. with approximately 30 YDSA members and allies attending. Bryce Hutchins/Daily Nexus

While testimonies were being read out, the group wrote messages with chalk on the ground. The messages read: “They have $$$ 4 war not us,” “No one should go hungry,” “Roll over swipes!” and “Feed us,” among others.

The rally concluded at 11:45 a.m. Horst was not present.

A version of this article appeared on p. 4 of the Feb. 29, 2024, print edition of the Daily Nexus.

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Lizzy Rager
Lizzy Rager (she/her) is the Assistant News Editor for the 2024-25 school year. She can be reached at lizzyrager@dailynexus.com