Students gathered in Kimmel Center for University Life on Tuesday night to discuss food insecurity on NYU’s campus.
The town hall was moderated by Jakiyah Bradley, the SGA Chairperson and Senator-at-Large for Students Experiencing Food Insecurity, to encourage an open discussion on food insecurity and how to better support students. Representatives from the university, Student Government Association and outside organizations working to aid students gathered in the eighth-floor Center for Multicultural Education and Programs lounge to discuss food assistance programs at NYU.
University officials highlighted that Swipe it Forward — a Tandon-born and student-led initiative where students can donate meal swipes which are then kept as vouchers by cashiers that can be used by anyone — will expand to Lipton Hall after two semesters at Tandon.
Senior Director of Campus Services Kathrina O’Mahony said student input is essential to updating and creating programs like Swipe it Forward to address food insecurity. In addition to attending town halls like this one, university representatives host student incubators, which are student groups that meet three to four times a semester and brainstorm solutions to these issues.
“We think we know what you want, but we don’t know what you want,” O’Mahony told WSN. “It’s an individual, it’s really important to get student input.”
The Courtesy Meals program is another important aspect of the university’s support for food-insecure students. This academic year, the Courtesy Meals program provided 3,900 students with short-term nutritional assistance, which is around the same as last year. The Big Deals is another program offered through Chartwells which provides three- or five-dollar meal options.
“[Food insecurity] is an issue, and I think NYU is looking at it and honestly trying the best to address it,” O’Mahony said.
Last November, Courtesy Meal Programs affected some students’ financial aid packages. While the aid calculation was quickly corrected, some students were still left distrustful of the program.
However, the university still does not have a food pantry on campus. Creating one is one of the primary goals of Share Meals — an organization aiming to combat food insecurity by sharing food through technology, activism and advocacy.
The group has faced hurdles in completing this task, the most pressing being a lack of space. A traditional food pantry is around 100 square feet and space like that is difficult to find on campus, founder of Share Meals and Steinhardt graduate student Jon Chin said.
“Hunger on college campuses is such a huge, pervasive issue,” Chin told WSN. “People are food insecure for a whole bunch of different reasons, and for some of them, a food pantry is a great resource. Food that they can cook at home, food they can take and have at home, that’s really important to them, and for them, that would be a great solution.”
Share Meals plans to partner with Trinity Church’s food pantry to offer student hours for food insecure university students. The church, located on Ninth Street and Avenue B, is around a 15-minute walk from Palladium Hall.
“They’re pretty well-run, well-organized so we thought since they already have a really great program, let’s send students who are interested over to them,” Chin said. “They are more than happy to help.”
Share Meals hopes to begin these student hours before spring break, a particularly difficult time for food insecure students.
“We found that a lot of students who are international students or who are originally from across the country can’t necessarily go home for breaks,” Chin said. “So on spring break, they’re here in the city. All the other NYU facilities are shut down. Dining halls are shut down, so they need some extra help to get through those days.”
Representatives from Edquity — an app aiming to provide emergency and financial aid to students who need help dealing with food insecurity, housing insecurity, financial aid or other day-to-day financial student issues — also attended the town hall.
“We’re here to learn and figure out how we can partner and work with students to move NYU around implementing better and more progressive to support students with financial insecurity,” David Helene, CEO of Edquity, said during the town hall. “We hope that at one point we’ll be administering emergency aid directly to students in a student-centric way.”
Email Emily Mason at [email protected]