The new Stony Brook Food Pantry is not free food for the frugal. It is not satisfaction for the stingy and it is not contentment for the cheapskate. Under ‘Mission’ on the pantry’s website, you will find that it serves primarily to feed those “of Stony Brook University and the Stony Brook University community that are at risk of food insecurity.” I am not denying the existence of said members of SBU and its community, but this pantry is simply in the wrong spot and solves the wrong problem.
Let us start with the number 25,000. That is roughly how many brilliant, ambitious and talented Seawolves we have in the university. Now take the figure 283,700. That is an approximation of the number of people on Long Island who need emergency food each year, according to LICares.org. The website also states that 74 percent of LI households that receive this emergency food are considered “food insecure.”
Relief should start with those who need it most. Long Island contains many people just as brilliant and ambitious as we who bleed red–people that lack the opportunities we so often take for granted. The SBU Food Pantry should first and foremost provide for the penniless.
In June of this year, our food pantry joined the College and University Food Bank Alliance (CUFBA). From its title, you can tell that this organization works nationwide to provide for those who are food insecure in higher education.
Upon visiting CUFBA’s website, no statistics can be found that accurately depict, on average, how many students need a food pantry or food bank on campuses around the country. But it does give one story about how Michigan State’s University Food Bank “lessens financial burdens for students.” Of course, a food bank would help for a school with a tuition ranging from $21,000-$49,000 for two semesters in a state with about 12.2 percent of households being food insecure, a percentage relatively high on a nationwide scale.
But some perspective must be placed on all this. More and more often, we see the traditional college student as being without complete financial security at home. Many students nowadays have to contribute greatly to the family’s income by balancing work with school. With tuition rates rising and loans becoming harder to pay off, students of higher education often find themselves short of affording a regular meal plan.
With all that in mind, food pantries on campuses like MSU are sometimes a necessity. But ours should not be. Those worse off than us on Long Island should be getting our primary attention. For those of us in the affluent bubble, New York State is not some utopia without hunger. Hunger and food security are real problems in our state and on our island.
Stony Brook is a relatively inexpensive university; therefore, a food pantry is more of an expendable bonus than a necessary institution. No, we do not live in Michigan, and no, we do not attend Michigan State University. Long Island needs our food pantry more than the community of SBU does.