Staten Island Hunger Task Force Hosts Hunger-Free Campus Virtual Info Session, Meeting Minutes Highlight Food Insecurity, Toiletry Needs, Stigma Of Poverty, Shame Faced By SI College Students


Hunger Free Campus Act Virtual Information Session

July 28th from 10 AM to 11 AM


Linda Rosenthal, Michael Arvanites, Robb Friedlander, Sarah Blah, and moderated by our task force’s own Heather Butts!

SIHTF May 2023 Meeting Minutes Regarding College Food Insecurity and Toiletry Needs

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.

Banner Image: College Student Studying. Image Credit – Varun Kulkarni


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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