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College & Career

New York governor calls for food pantries at public colleges

Jamie Martines
| Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2018, 3:45 p.m.
Sophomore Jennifer Talley uses the Cal U Cupboard, a food pantry for students, to help stock her kitchen when money is tight, or her meal plan gets low, at the California University of Pennsylvania, on Wednesday, March 22, 2017.
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Sophomore Jennifer Talley uses the Cal U Cupboard, a food pantry for students, to help stock her kitchen when money is tight, or her meal plan gets low, at the California University of Pennsylvania, on Wednesday, March 22, 2017.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is calling for all state universities to provide physical food pantries on campus or provide other means for students in need to receive food.

This would make New York the first state to require every public campus to have a food pantry, according to a statement released by Cuomo's office last week.

The plan proposes a $1 million state investment to implement the program.

About half of the combined 64 State University of New York and 24 City University of New York campuses have food pantries in place, according to the statement.

The issue of food security among college students — having sufficient and certain access to food, as defined by the United States Department of Agriculture — is not limited to New York.

A 2016 survey of 3,765 college students attending both community colleges and four-year colleges across 12 states showed that about 48 percent of respondents reported food insecurity within the 30 days preceding the survey.

The study — conducted by the College and University Food Bank Alliance, the National Student Campaign Against Hunger and Homelessness, the Student Government Resource Center and the Student Public Interest Research Groups — showed that 64 percent of students experiencing food insecurity also experienced some type of housing insecurity, such as homelessness. Others reported that they also had trouble purchasing textbooks.

About 10 percent of adults seeking assistance from Southwest Pennsylvania food banks are students, according to statistics from the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, which is part of a network of nearly 400 organizations throughout the region.

But for students to qualify for SNAP — the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps — they must work at least 20 hours per week, according to information from the organization. Unpaid internships are not recognized.

Some local schools have addressed this problem by opening food pantries on campus. Point Park University in Downtown Pittsburgh opened a food pantry in September after a survey of more than 325 students found that about 38 percent faced food insecurity throughout the school year, the Tribune-Review reported.

Point Park enrolls more than 4,000 students.

Community College of Allegheny County, which also enrolls about 4,000 students, opened a food pantry last fall after students benefited from temporary “pop-up” pantries held in the spring and summer, the Tribune-Review reported.

The University of Pittsburgh opened a similar food pantry in 2015, according to a report from WESA.

Though the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education does not have a system-wide food pantry or food security program, many campus groups manage such programs, spokesman Kenn Marshall said.

For example, West Chester University opened a student food pantry during the 2016-17 school year, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. Mansfield University opened a food pantry in September while California University has operated a pantry since 2015, the Tribune-Review reported.

Jamie Martines is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at jmartines@tribweb.com, 724-850-2867 or on Twitter @Jamie_Martines.

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