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Iranian Jewish Life in Los Angeles: Past and Present

Saba Soomekh, Author

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Swipe Out Hunger: Rachel Sumekh, CEO

Student Interviewers/Researchers:
Megan Sims
Shireen Hoseeini
Alexandra Marvizi

Wendy Piquemal

This organization was originally founded in 2009 at the University of California, Los Angeles. Bryan Pezeshki, an Iranian Jewish student, had the innovative idea of using students’ unused meal swipes to donate to the hungry. By gathering a group of friends to help him, he paved the way for the creation of his organization, Swipe Out Hunger. Bryan’s Iranian Jewish identity was a catalyst that facilitated the process of building a community for Swipe Out Hunger. A huge milestone for Swipe Out Hunger, formerly known as Swipes for the Homeless, was when the organization reached 300 meal donations in 2009. Now, Swipe Out Hunger has expanded their goals and donates more than just swipes. In June 2010, UCLA was able to convert swipes to a dollar value and donate the proceeds to the swipes fund. With these funds, Swipes for the Homeless was able to buy non-perishable foods for the homeless and the UCLA food closet. In 2011, Swipe Hunger went to the White House to expand Swipes to other college campuses. In 2016, co-founder Rachel Sumekh felt the name Swipes for the Homeless was no longer relevant because the organization was branching to more than donating swipes, and changed the name to Swipe Out Hunger.

The organization is important to the Iranian Jewish community because Iranian Jewish students started it. Rachel Sumekh stated that, since the Iranian Jewish community has a very tight social network, other Iranian Jewish students wanted to participate in Swipe Out Hunger. This allowed the organization founders to access a large group of participants and expand rapidly this way, with new Iranian Jewish chapter founders. Sumekh also stated that Swipe Out Hunger is important to Angelenos because of the many food-insecure areas we have in Los Angeles; such as Skid Row. A memorable moment for Rachel Sumekh was when a homeless man asked Rachel from whom the food was coming from. She stated that the donations were from students, and with a surprised look on his face, he said, “I didn’t know students gave a damn about us.” This sparked the initiative to expand Swipe Out Hunger to other college campuses and create solidarity within communities.
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