New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

Steinhardt USG opens pantry to address on-campus food insecurity

Students at the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development will now be able to access free hygiene products and food from an on-campus pantry.
Julia Smerling
Steinhardt’s food pantry is located in Pless Hall. (Julia Smerling for WSN)

Steinhardt students will now be able to access basic goods for free from a food pantry created by the Steinhardt Undergraduate Student Government. The pantry, which opened this week, is intended to address food insecurity by providing students in the school with ingredients for meals, hygiene products and household essentials. 

Tanisha Thakkar, the president of the Steinhardt USG, launched the pantry using the Student Government Assembly’s Initiative Fund — a $500,000 sum the student government can allocate toward projects targeting student needs each academic year. Thakkar said the pantry will be open every Tuesday and Wednesday in Pless Hall for students to collect essential goods. She said Steinhardt USG will restock the pantry on an “as-needed basis.”

“Our goal is to provide nutritious, good-quality and culturally diverse food, along with household items like detergent, toothpaste and menstrual products, given the growing costs of living, particularly in New York City,” Thakkar wrote in a statement to WSN. “Our overall goal is to cater best to the needs of our community.”

Cans of black beans and jars of peanut butter.
(Julia Smerling for WSN)

To use the pantry, Steinhardt students must complete a confidential user form that includes questions about the respondent’s demographics as a way to provide the university with data regarding “basic needs insecurity,” according to Thakkar.

In a recent WSN guest essay, Thakkar said she thinks the university’s current food insecurity programs, such as Swipe it Forward and Courtesy Meals, do not adequately address student needs because of the limitations on the amount of swipes and dining dollars students using these programs have access to. Thakkar also referenced a 2019 study conducted at Steinhardt, which found that 26% of surveyed students were facing “low to very low food security.”

Steinhardt USG food pantry liaison Alice Bui said that although the Initiative Fund will only cover one semester of the pantry’s operations, the USG has hopes to continue it long-term.

“Our goal is to sustain this food pantry for as long as we can,” Bui said. “We hope to raise awareness for not only just students, but also for faculty for the school to see the need for the food pantry to help students with sustaining their basic needs.”

The opening of the pantry comes a week after NYU’s chapter of the Young Democratic Socialists of America wrote a petition to President Linda Mills demanding long-term action against food insecurity on campus. They called on the university to allow students to redeem an unlimited amount of meal swipes through Swipe it Forward, instead of the one swipe students are currently allotted per week, and offer free meal plans for students who come from households making under $100,000 annually. 

Although the pantry is currently only open to Steinhardt students, the Steinhardt USG hopes that the food pantry inspires other schools to create similar initiatives. 

“The university is really trying its best to be responsive,” Steinhardt USG advisor Justine De Persia said. “I’m not an expert about food insecurity. But I trust what my students are saying about what their experiences and needs are, and any way possible that we can help our students thrive academically, socially and professionally in college includes their nutrition and well-being.”

Contact Gabrielle Panelo and Tyra Hughes at [email protected].

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About the Contributor
Julia Smerling
Julia Smerling, Photo Editor
Julia Smerling is a first-year studying photography and imaging, and is one of WSN’s Photo Editors. She is from West Palm Beach, Florida, and you can find her writing poetry, overly obsessing about films, painting art on jeans and always having her headphones on. Also, she’s secretly Peter Parker. You can reach her on Instagram @juliasmerling or her art account @jul3sarchive (where mostly her mom hypes her up and likes her posts so please give it a look — it's becoming embarrassing at this point.)

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    subhadra karMar 8, 2024 at 11:52 pm

    It’s a great initiative taken by Tanisha Thakkar..
    The very thought of not only addressing current food insecurity but also pantry to meet the needs of a very diverse community. In my considered view it’s great social and cultural shift concept.