On Mar. 6th, the Knights Table Food Pantry and Swipe Out Hunger met with New York Lawmakers advocating to pass the Hunger Free Campus Act in the New York State Assembly alongside President Frank Wu. The expiration of the Federal SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) COVID-19 Emergency Allotment on March 1st and the rise in inflation has intensified food insecurity. Thus, creating a vital need for The Hunger Free Campus Act S1151C, a bill designed to address food insecurity among students at public and private higher education institutions.
Swipe Out Hunger, a non-profit organization that works to address hunger across college campuses, stated that, “In 2019, 48% of CUNY students and 40% of SUNY students reported struggling with food insecurity. The economic fallout of the pandemic has only deepened this shocking crisis. When students experience food insecurity, they are more likely to receive lower grades and are twice as likely to drop out before completing their degree or certificate than their food-secure classmates.”
After the meeting, one of the co-sponsors of the bill, the New York State Assembly member for the 67th District, Linda B. Rosenthal, spoke to The Knight News and said, “During COVID-19 a lot of problems in society reared their head but what we see with food insecurity for college kids continues and is probably even worse right now.”
The issue of food insecurity was brought to the national agenda during the pandemic. In March of 2020, congress passed the Federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), and authorized SNAP recipients to receive more SNAP benefits than they would normally have been eligible for. However, the access to these expanded benefits expired on March 1st of this year, leaving many at risk of facing food insecurity again as they struggle with rising inflation.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics up to February 2023, the 12-month percentage change of the consumer price index, for all kinds of foods is 9.5%. However, food at home is having a higher number than food overall, which is 10.2%. As a result of these economic factors, food insecurity amongst college students has become a more pressing issue.
Getting ahead of the curve, in Fall of 2018, Queens College committed to reduce food insecurity among its student population by creating The Knights Table Food Pantry, which is overseen by the Office of Student Development and Leadership. It offers non-perishable food items and personal hygiene products to students and it is located in the Student Union Building basement in room LL29.
Arianna Livreri, the Associate Director of Civic Engagement and The Knights Table Food Pantry said, “Since 2018, the pantry has served 2,723 students in total. This academic year alone, it has served 1,012 students, a 175% increase in usage over this same period last year.”
This bill would work with the Office of Temporary Disability and Assistance (OTDA) in New York to establish a designation for Queens College as a ‘Hunger Free Campus.’ Livreri said, “Once designated, QC would be eligible to receive grants that can go right back towards our basic needs programming — from purchasing more toiletry items, investing in technology, such as online ordering systems, to supplies for basic needs centers.”
Currently, The Knights Table Food Pantry purchases most of their items with a grant from NY Food Bank and Grow NYC. Nevertheless, the bill would expand The Knights Table Food Pantry’s ability to address food insecurity at Queens College and allow them to keep up with the rising demand.
If you are facing food insecurity or would like to support the Knights Table Food pantry, feel free to contact KnightsTable@qc.cuny.edu or call (718) 997-3977. For all other information regarding the pantry and its services, visit here.