Lifestyle

Student feeds Philly homeless with remaining meal swipes

A freshman is encouraging students to cut down on food waste and help others.

During AaronRey Ebreo’s first month of college, he noticed several boxes of food being removed from the dining hall in Morgan Hall.

The boxes were full of leftover food. The freshman biology major said when he asked a man moving the boxes how much the food was worth, he estimated around $200. The boxes were full of leftover dining hall food that was not sold, and Ebreo thought it could be put to better use.

“I remember seeing a few homeless people across the street from my dorm,” Ebreo said. “It was tough to see.”

He decided to start using his extra meal swipes to cut down on wasted food and help feed the homeless he encountered every day. Now, he’s trying to turn that gesture into a larger project, Swipes for Philadelphia.

Freshman biology major AaronRey Ebreo hands out food purchased with leftover meal swipes to a homeless man in Chinatown on Nov. 4. WENDY VAN FOR THE TEMPLE NEWS

Freshman biology major AaronRey Ebreo hands out food purchased with leftover meal swipes to a homeless man in Chinatown on Nov. 4. WENDY VAN FOR THE TEMPLE NEWS

Ebreo has a Premium 25 meal plan, which allows him 25 dining hall meals per week. He wasn’t using all the meals in his plan, so he decided to stop letting them go to waste.

“I realized I could use them for someone other than myself,” he said.

Now each week, he uses his extra meal swipes to buy packaged cereal, apple cider and water to hand out to homeless people across the city.

Freshman finance major Joshua Lacerna, one of Ebreo’s friends, also started using his extra meal swipes to buy food for homeless people. Lacerna and Ebreo make “food runs” together to pick up basic food staples to hand out.

“The feeling of putting a smile on someone’s face is greater than any feeling in the world,” Lacerna said. “Also, being a student in a city population, it feels great to help out with different cultures and ultimately lead to better living conditions.”

Ebreo said he wants to get more students to use their extra meal swipes productively, rather than wasting them at the end of the week. He posts in the Temple Class of 2020 Facebook group to encourage his classmates to donate their extra meal swipes and help distribute food around the city.

Ebreo was involved in community service in high school in Bear, Delaware. He was the vice president of his high school’s chapter of the Child Health Foundation, a nonprofit that aims to “prevent and treat life-threatening communicable diseases among infants and children in the United States and abroad,” according to its website.

Ebreo said the organization “helped kids in need around [his] state.”

He raised money at music-themed charity events and “gave the money back to the community.”

Now, Ebreo is working on a website and social media pages to promote Swipes for Philadelphia, he said. Once the website is up and running, Ebreo hopes to identify leaders and form groups of students to distribute food to different parts of the city.

“Hopefully it will improve the legitimacy of it, and more people will want to get involved,” he said.

Ebreo said even as Swipes for Philadelphia grows, he aims to keep the project genuine.The best part of doing community service is seeing people’s reactions, he added.

“[Seeing] happiness wash over the faces of the less fortunate is unlike any other feeling,” he said.

Julian McCarthy can be reached at julian.mccarthy@temple.edu.

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