(KATE MUSTAKAS / THE STATESMAN)
The Food Pantry serves students at Stony Brook University that are “at risk of food insecurity.” It is an alternative food source to FSA-run campus dining spots like the Union Commons, pictured above. (KATE MUSTAKAS / THE STATESMAN)

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.

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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.

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5 comments

  1. So the author doesn’t doubt the existence of food insecure students, but then devotes the entirety of his article to explaining why SBU’s food insecure students are less deserving of assistance than the average food insecure Long Islander? Yea, that makes sense. There are plenty of food banks and charities that provide assistance to hungry families on Long Island, not to mention government programs like food stamps, but there aren’t programs in place to help SBU students that might be facing similar hardship. Hence the need for a campus food bank (this isn’t rocket science).

    The last two paragraphs hold the key to the author’s argument: SBU students are apparently living in an “affluent bubble” while attending a relatively inexpensive university. Perhaps the author, who himself is no doubt affluent, should consider that not all of his fellow students enjoy such prosperity. Perhaps there are families on Long Island, where the median household income is somewhere just below $60,000 a year and where cost of living is among the highest in the nation, that cannot easily afford SBU’s inexpensive, $4,000/semester tuition rate, which, by the way, doesn’t include the cost of housing and, drum roll please… food.

    It shouldn’t be too hard for a brilliant, ambitious, and talented Seawolf to imagine a student that is paying his or her way through school and struggles to make ends meet, sometimes cutting back on essentials like food. And it isn’t asking too much for that Seawolf to exercise a little empathy for that struggling student, seeing as he apparently is overflowing with empathy for food insecure Long Islanders that don’t go to SBU.

  2. A quick recap: First, Mr. Leelum says that there are food insecure students at Stony Brook. Then, he says there are more food insecure people on Long Island in general, and goes on to imply that food-insecure Long Islanders are some how more needy or more penniless than food-insecure Stony Brook students. Not finished, he declares that food-insecure students in Michigan should have a food pantry at their university because their tuition is higher, implying that Stony Brook’s lower tuition should mean that students here should have no problem getting food.

    It would seem Mr. Leelum is not a food-insecure student, is comfortably affording tuition, and clearly lives in his “affluent bubble,” the one he believes encloses all of Stony Brook University. But the fact remains that some Stony Brook students cannot afford food. Some students are working two jobs to pay their relatively low tuition, and didn’t go to Michigan State because they definitely couldn’t pay for the tuition that would have apparently bought them the right to the assistance they need. Some students truly need the help — and if they do, who are you, Mr. Leelum, to say that they deserve that help any less than someone in a similar position?

    Ultimately, data on the percentage of students who are food insecure or in danger of being food insecure would have gone a long way in proving a point in a piece that was full of assertions and devoid of logic.

    (In closing: Thank you to the very funny person with the “modest proposal” in the first comment — excellent!)

  3. In Africa, a far greater number and percentage of people are food insecure than SBU, Long Island or the United States. I propose that all American food pantries shut down and focus their attention on feeding Africa first.

  4. I don’t know if the tuition of a university would really change the demographic in need of food. There are bound to be students (particularly commuters) here at Stony Brook that may be paying in state tuition but require loans to pay for school on top of working a part time job. It’s totally reasonable that somebody like that may be in need of food to assist their lifestyle. However, I do agree that maybe the campus isn’t the best place and that the rest of Long Island might benefit more.

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