- All public colleges in The State University of New York and The City University of New York systems will have a food pantry or similar food access point by the end of the fall 2018 semester, expanding an effort that already put those services in many institutions, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced last week.
- Establishing food pantries at all 64 SUNY and 24 CUNY campuses will require about $1 million in state funds, CNN reported. It will make New York the first state with such a comprehensive food program.
- It is part of a five-part plan to combat hunger among students from kindergarten through college and provide some 1 million students with nutritious, locally sourced food.
Food insecurity is a pervasive issue on college campuses. Four in 10 (36%) four-year students and roughly the same share of community college students (42%) reported being food insecure, according to a survey released earlier this year by the Wisconsin Hope Lab, a research organization that studies student equity issues. The survey covered 43,000 students across 66 campuses in 20 states and the District of Columbia. It notes that food limitations affect learning, and are particularly a problem for disadvantaged students who likely have the hardest time transitioning to college.
Other colleges have reported varying but significant levels of food insecurity. Officials at North Shore Community College in Danvers, Massachusetts, were surprised to find that 70% of their students reported struggling with food or housing, and the California State University system reported that 41% of students say they have faced food insecurity.
Universities and colleges seeking to address the issue should first gather good information because the problem is difficult to spot as students hoping to avoid embarrassment hide it well. The Wisconsin Hope Lab offers guidance for surveying students to gauge levels of food insecurity.
Faculty members, too, should be aware of the issue and report concerns. Additionally, advocates recommend efforts to reduce campus food prices and provide flexible meal plans. They also suggest working with local community agencies, and some have students contribute to a fund for the programs. Furthermore, they note that government food benefits often don't help because they have stringent employment requirements, but they should encourage students to check their eligibility.