SUNY announces plan to address food insecurity
SUNY Chancellor John King is announcing a $1 million campaign to combat food insecurity at SUNY campuses around the state.
King made the announcement during a visit to SUNY Brockport on Wednesday. He wanted to highlight a new on-campus food pantry opening up at Brockport later this month.
It will offer everything from shelf-stable, refrigerated and frozen foods to diapers and menstrual products.
The $1 million is coming out of the current state budget, and more than two dozen other SUNY campuses will use their share of the funding to also purchase food and other supplies.
King said that if students are not getting enough food, it will affect their academic performance.
“Students who are skipping meals at times because of their personal finance,” noted King, “so we know it's important to address food insecurity. If students are hungry, they can’t learn, they're distracted, they're thinking about where they're going to get their next meal, rather than thinking about academics. And we want to make sure that those resources are available.”
King added that even with lower tuition at SUNY than some other universities, it’s still a struggle for some students.
“Our tuition is very affordable at SUNY, but then they've got the cost of room and board and some of our students, particularly low-income students are struggling,” said King. “And you don't want students to be in a situation where they're choosing between, do I buy a textbook or do I pay for my meals this week?”
King indicated that the percentage of students who are food insecure is relatively high at some campuses, although SUNY Brockport President Heidi Macpherson said it can be difficult to find out just how many students are not getting enough food.
“And actually, (in terms of) percentages, they're often very hard to find, because students are sometimes embarrassed about the needs that they have, they often don't tell us what they need,” said Macpherson, “and so we find out through other ways, we find out when a student doesn't go to class, we find out when a student's working too much, because they can't afford to feed themselves.”
King said that SUNY will also work to expand outreach services to make sure that students who are eligible for the federal food stamp program called SNAP, are able to apply for benefits.
The Chancellor is also hoping this additional state money to address food insecurity will be part of the state budget on an annual basis.