Shannon Mirshokri: Swiping Hunger out of Santa Barbara

Don’t let her tiny frame or her light-hearted attitude fool you –Shannon Mirshokri is doing some pretty big things on campus.  This Beverly Hills native isn't your average second-year pysch major-- she is also the founder of the year-old Swipes for the Houseless program at UCSB.  Since starting the program her first year here, she has managed to establish it as a campus organization, fostering a huge movement not only to feed the underprivileged members of our own community, but also to turn students into philanthropists by creating an easy and convenient way for them to give back to the community. 

What is Swipes for the Houseless?

Swipes for the Houseless is a student-run organization that sets out to spread awareness of homelessness and food insecurity while helping individuals who are in need in our community. The program allows Gauchos with meal plans to donate one of their weekly dining commons meals. The swipe is either donated to other students in need or to houseless individuals. 75% of the donated swipes stay as swipes and are used for our student-oriented program, Swipes for Us, which was created in collaboration with the Associated Students Food Bank. Students can go to the AS Food Bank to fill out a short application and receive swipes. The other 25% of the swipes are turned into a monetary value and used to buy nonperishable foods and items for residents of Santa Barbara homeless shelters.


What is your role in the organization? 

I am the co-founder and co-president of Swipes, along with Ali Guthy. We founded this organization together in winter 2013 and have been the link between the organization and administration since. We have a leader board of seven other officers and multiple volunteers who collectively table, plan, and organize the quarterly swipes drives.


What made you want to start the organization at UCSB?

I heard about this organization through my cousin who was the President of USC Swipes. She would always tell me about her organization’s accomplishments and once I came to college I thought it would be awesome to start the program here.


How did you start the organization?

After speaking to some people about my idea to bring Swipes to UCSB, I was put me in contact with Ali Guthy, who was the Houseless/Hunger Coordinator of Community Affairs Board at the time. We met and made a game plan of how we would present the program to Dining Services. After speaking to the director of Dining, we agreed on a pilot program with a cap of 75 meals that solely went to the houseless in Santa Barbara. Since last year, we have expanded our organization to our own students and compromised to increase our swipes cap to 1,000!


How do you hope to see Swipes for the Houseless evolve as an organization on campus?

I hope that in the future years, Swipes expands enough to reach more people in Santa Barbara. There are about 1,040 homeless people living in this city and about 930 of them are at risk for premature death. I believe that if the administration continues increasing the swipes cap, students can make a huge difference in our community. By donating unused swipes that would otherwise go to waste at the end of the quarter, students are helping feed a neighbor who would otherwise go hungry.


How can people get involved in the organization?

If you are interested in volunteering with Swipes, shoot us an email at [email protected] and like us on Facebook at “UCSB Swipes for the Houseless” to hear about updates.


Are you involved in any other activities—on or off campus?

Yes, I am a member of American Students for Israel and Dance Marathon at UCSB.


Are there any other community service organizations that you think should be created at UCSB?

I can’t necessarily think of one specific organization that we need, but I believe that educating students about current events and epidemics in our own city is important. I like creative organization that make it easy for students to help others, but are still effective in getting their message across.


What is your favorite place in IV?

My favorite place is Pelican Park on DP, a small park overlooking the Pacific.  Sometimes when I’m feeling stressed, I go there and enjoy the view of the ocean and sunset to relax.


What is one fact about yourself that people would be surprised to know?

 I don’t eat cereal with milk!


Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

 I hope to be married with children and a golden retriever puppy, all while working as a successful Occupational Therapist in Los Angeles.


What are you most excited about for spring quarter?

 I am extremely excited for Extravaganza! Going to concerts are my favorite activity, and I cannot wait to see how AS Program Board will top Dada Life from last year.