A new grant program announced by State University of New York (SUNY) Chancellor Jim Malatras will help fight food insecurity on campus — a situation that has aggravated further during the pandemic.

During his visit to Binghamton University in the Southern Tier, Chancellor Malatras said the grant will provide economically disadvantaged campuses the funds to procure refrigerators for their pantries so that there is always fresh food on the table.

Student associations and campus food pantry coordinators can apply for up to $1,000 in grants on behalf of their colleges.

The issue of food insecurity was first raised by Binghamton student Jacob Eckhaus, who is also a member of the SUNY Student Voices Action Committee founded by Malatras last year to discuss important issues facing SUNY students.

Applauding the efforts of the committee and particularly Eckhaus, who was instrumental in voicing his concerns about food shortages, Malatras said, “Today’s grant program will go a long way in providing much-needed meals to students in need.”

‘Pangs of Hunger Should Not Cloud Education’

A food pantry is now located on every SUNY campus as a result of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s “No Student Goes Hungry” program. However, those pantries have seen skyrocketing demand — nearly 320,000 visitors in 2019 and even more since COVID hit. 

Malatras addressed these concerns and spoke about the challenges facing colleges and universities during COVID. “The pangs of hunger should not cloud a student’s education,” he remarked.

SUNY, however, is not the only college addressing food insecurity on its campuses.  

Earlier this month, Pennsylvania officials lowered requirements for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which provides food assistance to low-income families. The new qualifications allow work-study eligible students with an expected family contribution of $0 to access the program.

Last year, Cerritos College in California partnered with the LA Food Bank to set up a food bank for students affected by the pandemic. The college also offered financial aid and housing for struggling students.