With college tuition rates and student loan debts at an all-time high, many students are burdened with their finances. For many, who are for the first time experiencing a sense of responsibility and independence, budgeting and managing finances is an overwhelming task. Not everybody is privileged enough to not have to care about when they’re getting their allowance, how to afford that outing, how to pay for those supplies, and most importantly - do I have enough money for a proper meal?
Studies show that 11.2% of college students in America face some kind of food insecurity (2015 - Urban Institute), which refers to a state of being without reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food. Students often find themselves compromising on a meal or two daily in order to not spend money. It’s not only unhealthy to go without at-least 2 proper meals a day, but it also affects your academic performance. In such situations of heightened prices, student loan debt and surging tuition rates, it is the onus of the local government and institutions to introduce schemes and policies that can ease the burden on students.
Pratt Institute is concerned about food insecurity within its own campus, firmly believing that no student should go without a proper meal. In an effort to tackle food insecurity, the Pratt Food Insecurity Team (which comprises of members from Health Services, the L/AC, Res Life, Student Gov, Diversity Equity & Inclusion, and NYPIRG) have instituted the Pratt Pantry. The idea was inspired by a similar pantry system in another school in New York. Started in early 2019, the goal of this initiative is to provide a resource for all students who are facing hunger and food insecurity. It’s an inspiring initiative and admirable initiative and the props go to Jasmine Cuffie, Health Services who are in charge of the Pratt Pantry. It works like any other Food Pantry, but for all Pratt Students! The Pratt Pantry also collects data on food insecurity and aims to solve systemic issues of diversity and inclusivity associated with hunger and food insecurity. As per the student body census, in which about 490 students responded, a percentage of students higher than the national average were facing food insecurity at Pratt.
The Pratt Pantry is located in room 010 of Chapel Hall. It’s open from 10:30 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays and from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. on Wednesdays. All visitors are given access to a variety of non-perishable food items (such as canned goods, dry fruits, grains, and other products) which they are free to take in whatever quantity and can visit as many times as they need. The pantry is also looking to incorporate perishable items in their stocks in the future, after having a risk management analysis on it. The pantry works on a donation system, so every Pratt student is encouraged to donate to the Pantry if they find themselves able to do so. As of now, 100% of donations are from the student, faculty, and staff, although the Pantry wishes to expand and tie-up with local restaurants and food services. Each student is also recommended to download the ShareMeals app where they can find out areas and events which are giving out free food on campus or nearby. Since the Pantry does not assess need every time you visit and it works on donations, it’s only expected that people access this wonderful resources based on an honor system. The Pantry also provides other local food insecurity resources along with recommendations for applying to the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP/EBT) and general tips for city living on a budget. It also works in tandem with the Center for Career and Professional Development to educate students on financial wellness. The Pantry also looks forward to working with AVI Fresh’s (Pratt’s catering service’s) dietician on nutrition management and healthy food studios. It is through these partnerships and collaborations that the Pantry works in such an admirable manner - always visioning a sustainable and fruitful expansion.
The Pratt Pantry is a major breakthrough in campus involvement with social issues of food insecurity. It’s a means to assess, solve and negate hunger throughout campus. It’s a commendable initiative and deserves the utmost appreciation. If any student reading this finds themselves able to donate, the Pantry does take on-campus drop-offs. It’s staffed through volunteers from different departments and anybody who feels they have the time and dedication should definitely aim to help out, do their bit
Image by Aliza Pelto