For college students on a budget, sometimes cuts have to be made for them to be able to afford their education. But some cuts may not be worth it when they start affecting health through poor diet or lack of food. To help alleviate this problem, the School of Technology and Management has partnered with Campus Residences to develop a campus food pantry open to students, faculty and staff with a valid Stony Brook ID.
The pantry, which was proposed in the Spring 2013 semester, will attempt to provide for students suffering from food insecurity. The project staff assistant from the School of Public Health Technology and Management, Casey McGloin, defines insecurity in two ways: one is hunger from lack of food, the other is poor diet from unhealthy food choices.
“Healthy is more expensive. I think it speaks to why students can’t afford to buy it,” McGloin explains.
Instead the pantry hopes to improve diets by working with the university registered dietitian, Leah Holbrook, on purchasing healthy choices like low sodium soups and whole grain pasta. They will also accept donations, especially during their three planned food drives: two in the fall, one in the spring. These donations may be critical depending on demand because the pantry is stocked with $5,000 worth of food raised in last year’s “‘Tis the Season Fundraiser.” Money from the fundraiser will continue to be allocated to the pantry annually.
“If demand is high we could potentially have our stock depleted in two weeks–we have no way of knowing,” McGloin said of the extreme case.
However what is more expected is that pantry demand and donations will spike toward the end of the semester, when meal plans have run out and people are in a giving mood because of the holidays.
“I just eat constantly, so I don’t really budget,” says Kevin Chang, a freshman biomedical engineering student, who says he goes for the cheaper food in general.
“While we certainly won’t turn away donations, we ask that people consider giving healthy donations. We don’t want the ramen noodles, we don’t want the cup of soup. We want better choices,” Beth McGuire, Quad Director of Roth Quad, said.
By simply allowing access with a Stony Brook ID card, the pantry operators recognize that they open themselves to potential opportunists as opposed to the truly needy. The decision was deliberate–they cannot assume that someone is not needy. Instead they will restrict access to food by only allowing their set volunteer staff to handle the process of giving out food. To receive food visitors will have to swipe their IDs, talk to a facilitator to determine food needs through an order sheet and finally have food bagged for them by volunteers. At no point can a visitor simply walk in and take food.
The accessibility the pantry allows was also made with the mindset that not having enough to eat can be difficult to admit to someone, which operators hope will not deter people from using their service.
“We want to be conscious that there is a certain amount of shame that goes along with needing to utilize the pantry,” McGloin said.
Chang says he would not have a problem using the pantry, but would not admit to anyone that he did.
Dominick Pastorelle, Residence Hall Director of James College, believes that beyond just shame, people do not realize college students actually go hungry because the perception is that if one can afford to go to college, one can afford to support oneself.
“That’s part of the important part of making people realize that the food pantry is just for people who are financially disadvantaged, but it’s for anyone who is going through a period where they don’t have the resources to support themselves,” Pastorelle said.
Stony Brook follows a growing group of schools in the country that are offering food pantries to students and faculty. Contributing to this demand by students and faculty is the higher cost of education and the economic recession. As for the future, the College and University Food Bank Alliance, which has had a major influence on Stony Brook’s food pantry, will work with other schools in order to create a network of resources to help them start their own food pantries.
The Stony Brook University Pantry will officially open on Wednesday, Sept. 18 at the Gray College ITS Center, room A09. Its hours of operation will be Tuesdays and Wednesdays between 7:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m.