Staten Island Hunger Task Force Provides Updates On Food Insecurity, Toiletry / Feminine Products Need At Local Colleges For Scholarship Recipients, Low Income Students


A Message From Ruben Sibri of the NY Comptroller’s Office

A Message from Ruben Sibri

Hello everyone this Ruben Sibri, SI Regional Director for the State Comptroller. I wanted to connect individually with you all about how our the State Comptroller’s office can continue to support efforts against food insecurity and how I can be of service to you all in the community. If you’re interested in meeting please reach out to me at [email protected] or 347-816-4273.

May 2023 Meeting Minutes

In Attendance:

Donna Scimeca, Lmart7579, Andrew Fairley, Cindy Roberti, Re. Dr. Holly Bonner, Cathy, Susan Fowler, Heather Butts, Michael Matthews, CSpringer, Danielle Parks, Terry Troia, George Barreto, Paloma Wasserstein, Sarah Blas, Ginny Mantello, Jody Still, John Felci, Jean-Paul Murphy, Antoinette Donegan, Irianna Ma, Gloria Manzano, Neil Berry, Laura Jean Watters, and 16466426058

Rev. Dr. Holly Bonner, Director of Civic Engagement at Wagner College, Shares on College Food Insecurity Issues:

Rev. Bonner has been at the college about 4 years, is a professor, and is in charge of providing accessibility for students who need it. What she is seeing in Staten Island is that many minority students who are also athletes need food assistance help. These students receive a substantial scholarship including a meal plan. If the students are busy and active athletes, they are not getting enough caloric intake to keep themselves going, and are looking for extra meals. Wagner tried to address that by providing a Wagner Wagon which provides food to those in need, and the Wagon is a student run program. Trinity Lutheran and the JCC were major partners in providing food. If a student needed to use the pantry they would receive a nondescript, pre-filled bag. One hurdle is that a majority of white students run the program and a large number of minority students use the pantry, and this has impacted student morale. One attempt to help with this was to provide a kitchen space.

Another issue is their international students. Many of these students have food insecurity to begin with and want a taste of home. This means having spices and foods that are hard to find and high in cost. They try to work with the staples that they have to help with the situation but not completely.

Another need of the students is toiletries, even though they may have a scholarship incidentals are not covered and these students are often financially burdened to begin with. One big concern is feminine hygiene projects as Wagner has stopped stocking these items for free. The Pride Center has supported Wagner by donating items, but cultural differences with students prevent them from using the hygiene items that are available. Wagner has to follow NCAA regulations and they are not able to provide for these students without being in some kind of out of bounds relationship with these student athletes. Rev. Bonner spoke about a model found at Rutgers University where John Bon Giovi’s charity operates a restaurant where free food can be provided to people if other people donate. A model like that could be beneficial to Staten Island.

Heather wonders if they can work on getting a Clementine stand to Wagner. She spoke about Princeton Undergrad where every student got a box filled with supplies and personal Al items someone would need for their first semester regardless of the students financial status. Heather suggests trying a program like that. Rev. Bonner is excited about the Clementine Collective idea. She also loves the idea of the boxes.

Sarah Blas praised the interfaith efforts at Wagner College and encouraged people to tour the space.

Cindy Roberti offered her and her church’s support and offered to make an introduction to their new pastor.

Terry shared some ideas and experiences from her work with CUNY Food Pantry. She suggested a “toilet-tree,” where items are placed somewhere to be taken anonymously. She suggested leaving discreet bags wrapped up and left in a basket somewhere near the areas where people need these items. She suggested food drives for high caloric items like protein and energy bars. She shared that at times City Harvest will provide these items and things like energy drinks. She also suggested that restaurants can donate food as well.

Rev. Bonner shared that many of the students that she works with did not know how to cook food and she pointed out the importance of teaching these students how to prepare food as well.

Donna Scimeca asked for a clarification of the issues and Rev. Bonner clarified that there are issues with both the funding to receive food and the restriction in giving that food out. Donna shared that CSI has a system using a form and a discreet appointment to get food. Rev. Bonner shared the issues she is facing with the stigma of food insecurity. She also highlighted the issues with having a primarily white volunteer team distributing food to a small minority population. She also shared that their schedules prohibit them from making appointments.

Susan recommended instituting a program where extra meals on meal plans could be donated to other students. Rev. Bonner shared that they had tried something similar before her time and the program and it did not remain.

Rev. Bonner also shared some of the difficulties they are facing with their students, including lower levels of education and high instances of mental health issues.

Terry shared that smaller schools are putting out discreet tables with food to reduce issues with the stigma of food insecurity.

Rev. Bonner spoke about the culture issues they face in distributing food and that also contributes to their difficulties with distribution. She also shared the struggles of students that were so financially strained that they would have money to do their laundry but not to get soap or buy food.

Terry suggested a community fridge near the college. Rev. Bonner shared that there is a refrigerator and brand new stove in the chapel. Because students have to go into the building to use it they may still be hesitant to do so because of the visibility.

Governance Committee Report:

Susan Fowler shared that they did not meet this month and that Andrew had sent out information on membership. She asked if anyone has any thoughts on the membership process and no one offered thoughts. We will review next month.

Data Committee Report:

Andrew shared there were no updates

Volunteer Committee Report:

No Updates

Food For All Report:

Terry shared that Food For All has reached out to Congresswoman Malliotakis and had a face to face conversation with Sherri Diamond who is setting up a meeting in Washington for Monday the 8th. The 7th begins the anti-hunger conference and we will be working with Nick Buess from Food bank to advocate for our community on the issues of the farm bill and the impact of SNAP reductions. Reports will be made in the June meeting. Terry also shared that there has been a significant reduction in HPNAP money coming into Staten Island. At least 3 food pantries submitted applications for significant money and only one was funded. Potentially a loss of between $300,00 and $400,000 dollars in Staten Island. Meetings with Mike Reilly and Sam Pirozzolo will be set up to express concern that contracted funds were not designated for Staten Island Food Pantries. This money is for food and operations.There may be $20 million dollars available but none of that is certain.

Other Notes:

Michael Matthews from PPS has created task forces to deal with Veterans issues. He wants to speak about unique challenges that veterans face and they need help.

Dr. Mantello shared that there are many coupons and dollars to be made available for any clients that receive services from NYC Cares.

Cindy Roberti pointed out that many issues coming up can be worked out in partnership with each other and asked if there is a directory. Andrew shared he is not sure that emails can be given out, but offered to send out an email blast to see if people are ok with sharing their information.

Banner Image: Tom Organic feminine products. Image Credit – Maddi Bazzocco


SI Hunger Task Force

The SI Hunger Task Force is not a pantry. Instead, we connect community members to pantries and pantries to community and government resources.

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