Town Hall Highlights Few Resources for Food-Insecure International Students

Students affected by food insecurity came together to talk about the scope of the issue and how it is being dealt with at NYU.

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Sam Klein

Student Government Assembly Chairperson Jakiyah Bradley leads a November 2018 town hall on food insecurity. (Photo by Sam Klein)

By Victor Porcelli, Deputy News Editor

Food insecurity at NYU was discussed at length at a town hall hosted by Student Government on Monday, about one month out from when dining service providers will be presenting their proposals to NYU. Lack of long-term solutions and resources for international students were two topics highlighted as key issues by the approximately 30 students in attendance.

Alternate Senator-at-Large for students experiencing food Insecurity Jakiyah Bradley ran the town hall and led the discussion. The event featured a presentation by Steinhardt graduate student Jon Chin, the founder of Share Meals, an organization which seeks to help those facing insecurity by allowing students to share leftover meal swipes. Earlier this year, the [email protected] survey reported that 21.7 percent of students struggle to pay for food. So far in this semester, 500 more people used the Courtesy Meal Program, which offers students 75 dining dollars to help pay for the meals, than last semester’s total — causing concern when taking into account the results of the [email protected] survey. International students accounted for about 20 percent of the Courtesy Meals Program usage, according to statistics Bradley obtained from Senior Vice President for Student Affairs Marc Wais, which also listed the amount of students who have used the program this semester.

“The biggest focus for me this year, and that was bolstered by what I heard here, was making sure that our international students are really represented and supported,” Chin said. “A lot of the solutions that we’ve been doing already and a lot of the solutions that we have in place, they’re not really tailored for international students.”

International students do not qualify for federal financial aid or federal programs meant to remedy food insecurity such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which is one program NYU refers students to after they have used the Courtesy Meal Program three times. Students who are undocumented also cannot access federal programs such as SNAP. Other resources available to students that the university supports are the Facebook group Free Food Events at NYU and Share Meals, which also encompasses initiatives such as Open Kitchen and Love Through Food. Open Kitchen teaches students how to cook healthy food on a budget, and Love Through Food provides thousands of pre-packaged meals to students each semester.

Free Food Events at NYU founder Earl Co, a Tandon graduate, attended the town hall, and said that he was surprised at how many students who were there did not know about the various initiatives.

“This was a fairly informative event but I’m surprised myself that there’s people here that have never heard of Courtesy Meals,” Co said.

Even knowing the current offerings by the university, many students voiced a need for a long-term solution, such as a food pantry, or the Campus Kitchens Project — an organization that serves leftover food to students who cannot afford to pay for their meals on college campuses, reducing waste and food insecurity at the same time.

Bradley said that hearing from students about what they see as the major issues, such as the lack of resources for international students, will make it easier when talking with administrators. She said one potential solution she’s working to institute is the Campus Kitchens Project on NYU’s campus, which she is currently in conversation with representatives from Aramark about doing if they are once again chosen as the dining provider for the university. On Dec. 14, Bradley will attend a meeting with Aramark and Compass Group, the two companies left in the race to become NYU’s dining service provider, when the two groups present their proposals to NYU.

Email Victor Porcelli at [email protected]