CT Foodshare and UConn Hartford open on-campus food pantry for students
The University of Connecticut, in partnership with Connecticut Foodshare, opened its fourth pantry on a UConn campus for food insecure students at UConn Hartford.
Students cheered and erupted in applause Thursday, when they gathered to check out Husky Harvest. Looking around, it was impossible to tell what food insecurity looks like on campus. But Jacob Jakubowski, CEO of Connecticut Foodshare, had a startling statistic.
“One in three college students [nationally] is food insecure,” he said.
According to Foodshare, many college students do not qualify for the government’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
“I’ve witnessed a lot of students struggle with paying for meals or just going hungry throughout the day because they simply can’t afford the hefty prices here in Hartford,” Romina Flores Diaz, a first-year undergraduate, said. “This Husky Harvest isn’t only for here, it’s for students who don’t have meals at home.”
The pantry is stocked with canned beans, pasta, salted cashews packets, energy bars and chocolate muffins.
Diaz said a couple of chocolate bars caught her attention, and she’d be taking them home to bake muffins.
“We talk about workforce development, and that’s important, but the reality is we have to get students through school first,” said Nadine Brennan, associate campus director. “We can’t let low-income students take out loans, then flunk out of school because they’re hungry.”
A 2020 survey of 1,000 undergraduate students found that 52% sometimes used off-campus food banks, while 30% used them more frequently. Thirty-five percent of students said their hunger had impacted their ability to study at some point. That survey, conducted also found that more than one-third of students knew someone who had dropped out of school due to difficulties affording food, according to the learning platform Chegg, national nonprofit Swipe Out Hunger and the Born This Way Foundation.
Student body president Andy Lanza advocated for the pantry. Some of it is location – he says students can’t afford the cost of food at Hartford-area cafes and restaurants, and there isn’t food on campus. Some students have meal plans on other campuses, though. However, UConn’s pantry is open to all students. No questions asked. And part of it is convenience.
“When they [students from other UConn campuses] come to Hartford, say they have a 12 o'clock, 1 o’clock class time, it’s not possible for them to go back to Storrs and have lunch with their meal plan,” Lanza said. “Those are mostly the students that are coming here and not eating.”
But even if there were a subsidized cafeteria on campus, Lanza said there are students who wouldn’t be able to buy the food.
The pantry is located on the ground floor, just off the elevator in a private area so that students who want anonymity can use a hallway that will offer an egress away from throngs of people.
Jakubowski said 425,000 people “struggle with hunger every single day, and it ends up being one out of every seven residents” in Connecticut.