FLATBUSH – In the age of the coronavirus, pantries are working overtime to provide for people depend on them for survival, and the Brooklyn College pantry is no different.
The pantry, located on the Brooklyn College campus, has been serving City University of NY (CUNY) students since it launched in 2015. It provides healthy food options for students so that they don’t have to worry about food while focusing on their academic studies, and is open on an appointment-by-appointment basis to all CUNY students twice a month.
CUNY is no stranger to food insecurity. In 2018, 48% of the 22,000 CUNY students who responded to New York #RealCollege Survey said they were food insecure during the previous year. Among those surveyed, 55% were housing insecure and 14% were homeless, according to the report, we wrote last September.
On April 9, Brooklyn College’s Undergraduate Student Government (USG) decided to allocate $13,000 to the food pantry’s needs, of which $3,000 will be designated for hygiene products.
“We understand these are trying times and we want to make sure the students are continuing to receive the services they need,” the USG said on Facebook. “Due to COVID-19, we’ve seen an increase in the number of cases of students facing food insecurity.”
Last December, the City announced a $1 million pilot to address food insecurity among CUNY students. The City was planning to provide eligible students with vouchers to use in their campus cafeterias. But with all campuses closed, the City Council announced that it would redistribute the funds to individual checks and will give $35,000 to CUNY food pantries that remain open on campus, NBC News reported.
“Coronavirus has drastically changed how students learn but our hunger problem among low-income students is the same and so is the Council’s commitment to combating hunger in our city,” NYC Council Speaker Corey Johnson said in a statement. “We don’t want students to sacrifice meals because cafeterias – where they could use city-funded vouchers or swipe cards – are closed. These students need those meals now more than ever to remain healthy.”
One student has been accessing the Brooklyn College food pantry for a year now. She said it has helped her get through some of the hard moments in her life.
“The campus pantry always had food available for me,” she told Bklyner. “I am studying law and so it’s been extremely helpful to get food and not worry about it affecting my studies. It has been difficult these past few weeks because my mom can’t work anymore, so we are planning on continuing with this pantry. I hope it’ll still be there for us.”
According to Alyssa Taylor, the USG president, the $13,000 comes from the funds they would usually use to put on large scale events on campus. Since the campus is closed and there is no need for events, they decided the money would go to those who need it the most.
“It was brought up in our cabins meeting as a way to continue assisting students during this time. It is important to us that students are getting the supports they need,” Taylor told Bklyner. “We know that CUNY is no stranger to food insecurity, but with the increasing number of people losing their jobs we’ve seen food pantries becoming overwhelmed. This is just a small token of doing our part for our community.”