Jaspers Combat Food Insecurity with Dining Dollar Donations

By, Megan LaCreta, Asst. Features Editor

On Oct. 7, Residence Life sent out an email to students titled “Food Insecurity on Campus” to readdress the continuously serious issue of food availability to all members of college campuses.

According to the email from Residence Life, “Food insecurity refers to inadequate or unreliable access to affordable, nutritious food. Food insecurity impacts about 15% of college students according to a study published in Public Health Nutrition.”

The Food Insecurity Committee at Manhattan College exists to combat the issue on our own campus. Marilyn Carter, director of Commuter Services and committee member, described the need for such a coalition at MC.

“Food insecurity for college students is across the country, and quite frankly we are behind the times,” Carter said. “It’s something that the committee brought to the table… three years ago when a couple of us got together and we were speaking about the students on campus, particularly the commuters, because I look over the commuter population, and they travel, they live at home and some of them don’t necessarily have enough food on the table.”

While food insecurity is less prevalent in resident student populations, since resident students are more likely to have a meal plan through the college, Hayden Greene, director of Multicultural Affairs and chair of the Food Insecurity Committee, points out that it can’t be assumed that residents go completely unaffected by the issue.

“The thing about food insecurity is that it is not just an individual idea, right, it’s the whole family unit,” Greene said. “So if you live on campus and you have a meal plan, but back home, your mom, your dad, your brother, your sister, the rest of your extended family are having trouble putting food on the table, that weighs on you … It’s the exact same kind of impedance to success for our students.”

The pandemic has also had an impact on how food insecurity affects students. Greene ex- plained that a source of food for many students on campus was events where food was provided, and students were able to take any leftovers. This is still a problem coming out of the pandemic, Greene explained.

“We’re just now getting back into having food events, or food at events. But even with that, that’s at a smaller amount because during the pandemic, everybody’s budget got cut so we’re not able to buy as much food as we would normally,” Greene said. “And as a result you see events utilizing all the food that they have and not having a lot of overage. So on one hand, that’s a good thing, because there’s not a lot of food waste happening, But on the other hand, we’re pretty sure that there’s a whole component of the community that was reliant on those food events to have that extra food in order to eat that day.”

The dining staff at the college posing for a picture. @MC_DINING/COURTESY

Sophomore international studies major Gabriela Sandoval lives off-campus, who is more likely to get food from Kelly Commons or in the Multi- cultural Center than the dining hall when she takes advantage of campus dining. While she believes the school has active resources for food, she explained that the healthiness of the food provided is an issue that needs addressing.

“Most commuter or resi-commuter students eat in Kelly, but most of the food is either fried or pre-packaged. I think bringing in healthier options on campus would encourage me and other commuter students to eat during our breaks,” Sandoval said.

The committee is taking steps to address food insecurity in the community. They are currently working with the college’s food services provider, Aramark, to get the company directly involved in the issue.

“We want [Aramark] to get involved in the social aspect of food insecurity, and so they have a couple of different things you know we’re working on,” Carter said. “Hayden

Greene, chair of the committee, has just drafted a letter to go out to store owners in the particular area to see whether they will donate [food], so Aramark is donating a pantry for us to store this.”

The committee is also working with Aramark to create a mobile ordering system for Kelly Commons.

Another method of addressing food insecurity is through the Dining Dollar Donation Program. The program allows Jaspers to donate some of their own dining dollars to students who are facing food insecurity. Greene explained why students who can should consider donating.

“Every year students have this glut of [dining dollars] that they just simply have not used, and then they end up doing wasteful things like buying a giant pallet of ramen that they’re just never going to use, it ends up getting thrown out,” Greene said. “And so we wanted to be able to be preemptive and hopefully get our students in a mindful state … You sit in classes with people, and you never know whether the person to your left, or to your right, is thinking about whether or not they’re going to be able to eat today, and in your pocket is the way to help them in an anonymous way and sometimes really a non impactful way to most students.”

For her part, Sandoval is glad that such a program exists at Manhattan and thinks it can be a meaningful part of campus through helping fellow Jaspers.

“I think that [the Dining Dollar Donation Program] is an amazing program,” Sando- val said. “You never know what someone’s going through, so giving them access to a meal each night could help them more than you think.”

The Dining Dollar Donation Form can be accessed by logging into the MyHousing portal, and can be found under “Helpful Links.” To seek assistance for you or someone you know facing food insecurity, the Food Insecurity Request Form can be found on the Dean of Students page of the college website, under “#JasperFood- Share — Food Insecurity Support.”