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SUNY Conference Addresses College Student Hunger

ROCHESTER, NY (WXXI) - Throughout the State University of New York system, an estimated 35% to 45% of students don't have regular access to food.

As of December 2018, all SUNY universities and colleges have food pantries on campus, but a SUNY food insecurity task force is looking at other ideas to address the problem.

Among them, according to John Graham, association provost for student affairs, is a program called Single Stop.

"Single Stop," he explained, "sort of has this platform where students who need legal advice can get it; students that need access to SNAP benefits, they can seek out those eligibility requirements; students that need a range of support services, including those students who may be homeless."

Single Stop has already been deployed on City University of New York campuses, and Graham said it will be tested in a pilot study on seven SUNY campuses in the fall and next spring.

Another initiative under consideration is led by students. Swipe Out Hunger is a nonprofit that encourages students who have extra dining hall meal swipes on their prepaid cards to donate them to their peers.

Monroe Community College is hosting SUNY's first food insecurities conference on Wednesday. The event will bring together members of the task force, which includes students, faculty, and administrative leaders. The task force is co-chaired by MCC President Anne Kress and Randi Shubin Dresner, president and CEO of Island Harvest Food Bank.

Graham said hunger affects students' ability to thrive academically and stay on track to graduation.

"Many of our students are coming from high schools, as you can imagine, that have free lunch programs, and they're used to access to food from school," he said. "And then, of course, when you get to college -- especially when you live on a campus -- you're expected to pay for those meals."