The Hofstra Pride Pantry opened its doors to students, faculty and staff on Wednesday, Nov. 2, with hopes to provide free healthy food for members of the Hofstra community facing food insecurity, which is – as defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture – a condition affecting someone who does not have adequate resources to feed themselves, and is a growing issue on college campuses.
“There is no reason for a student to struggle. There’s no reason for a student to go hungry. It’s the last thing that we want,” said Beth McGuire, senior assistant dean of students and director of residence life. “We’ve heard too many stories about students who go to their midterms or finals hungry or with not enough to eat and that is something that we want to end on this campus.”
Hofstra is not the first to try and combat the increase in food insecurity amongst students through the use of food pantries. As of Oct. 31, 383 universities and colleges nationwide have opened food pantries to their campuses and are members of the College and University Food Bank Alliance (CUFBA).
“It was an initiative that I started when I worked at Stony Brook University. I did a lot of research about food and security and how it affects college students,” McGuire said. “It affects college students in a myriad of ways whether that’s academic performance, roommate conflicts, judicial instances.”
McGuire talked about how the insufficient diets that students are often forced to submit to have major and minor impacts on student life, including the popular “hangry” or hunger induced anger effect.
“We have that term now – ‘hangry.’ Hangry is an actual real thing. It’s when your glucose [levels] actually dips too low that you have trouble controlling your emotions. These are things that affect every college student whether persistently or situationally, and we thought that as student affairs professionals our main focus [for students] is degree completion, academic success and making sure that students are satisfied with their experience at Hofstra. This will help with that,” McGuire said.
The Pride Pantry is open during select hours for community members with a valid Hofstra ID: Wednesdays from 11:15 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. and Thursdays from 4:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Visitors will be asked to fill out a survey asking about their specific needs before receiving a bag of food.
“I think it is going to bring the community together. Students without the means to have a meal plan or commuters, even faculty members, will be able to know that the food pantry is here if they need it,” said Veronica Scott, a sophomore biochemistry major.
According to McGuire, in order to provide a balanced diet to visitors, the Pride Pantry is billing itself a “healthy food pantry.”
“To the best of our ability we’ve picked foods that are high in protein, low in sodium, items that will sustain hunger longer. When you receive a bag of food from the pantry it’s going to be a well-balanced bag. So you’re going to have snacking nuts, you’re going to have breakfast bars, whole grains, beans, protein – things that students can really make meals out of,” McGuire said. “We don’t want you to come to this food pantry and just get 10 packets of ramen noodles – that’s not going to provide any support to your hunger.”
Students so far have offered mixed reactions to the contents of the pantry.
“I think [the food pantry] is good because they have healthy food like gluten-free pasta, canned goods. Obviously they can’t accommodate to everyone’s dietary restrictions but the gluten free is nice to see,” said Anna O’Brien, a sophomore psychology major.
Ian Guziman, a junior math and sociology major said, “I think they should expand on [the food pantry]. They could have more food or different sections for vegetarians or vegans or other types of diets.”
While fully stocked, the newly established pantry stands in a small closet in the student collaborative space located in room 242 in the Student Center.
As the cost of college is inarguably higher than ever, the growing hunger crisis amongst students seems it will continue to climb.
Feeding America, a national nonprofit network of food banks, for example, estimated that 49.3 percent of its clients in college indicate having to choose between paying for educational expenses, such as books and supplies, or food.
When asked about why students go hungry, McGuire said, “The ‘why’ does not concern me. I don’t need to know why, I just need to know that there is an avenue of support and resources available for any person in this community that finds themselves in that situation.”
She also warned the commuity of getting caught up in proving that students will not abuse the system.
“Sometimes we get caught up in the why and in the ‘how are you going to prove or how are you going to make sure people don’t cheat the system’ – but none of those things mean anything to me. If someone is in need, we are going to fill the need and we are going to help them to the best of our ability.”