As part of Ithaca College’s efforts to respond to students struggling with food insecurity, the college will establish an on-campus food pantry with the assistance of a gift from the Lissy Family Foundation.
“The mission of our family foundation is to help people in need across a variety of spectrums,” said Dave Lissy ’87, chair of the Ithaca College Board of Trustees. “When we hear about issues like food insecurity, and that there are students experiencing hunger on our own campus, it resonates with my wife and me. It felt like an opportunity to lend a hand.”
This issue is not unique to Ithaca College. A report last spring from the Wisconsin HOPE Lab revealed that more than a third of students at 35 four-year colleges reported having “low” or “very low” levels of food security. And a quarter of students said they had skipped or cut the size of their meals three times in the last month due to lack of money. There are currently 570 colleges with food pantries for students, up from four just a decade ago.
Since the spring of 2017, the college has hosted a mobile food pantry on campus once a month in a program provided by the Food Bank of the Southern Tier, in partnership with the Ithaca College Food Insecurity Working Group. The mobile pantry delivers fresh produce, cheese and other food items, from which members of the campus community can select free of charge. Approximately 200 community members take advantage of this service each time.
The new on-campus pantry will help ensure that the college can meet the needs of students on an ongoing basis, and, as with the mobile food pantry, it will be open to all members of the campus community.
“Like the mobile food pantries, it will be a judgement-free zone,” said David Prunty, executive director of auxiliary services at Ithaca College. “If you say you need it, no one is going to question that.”
The college is considering a location for the pantry that would be centrally located and convenient, while maintaining the privacy of the students using it. It is anticipated that it will open sometime in the spring 2019 semester. This pantry will supplement the mobile food pantry, which will continue to serve the campus community.
“I commend President Collado and her team for recognizing this issue and for proposing possible solutions. If food insecurity exists on this campus, even with a small percentage of students, we ought to do something about it,” Lissy said. “Each and every student who is trying to focus on learning and growing should have access to an adequate amount of food to help them get through the day. We want to be a community where people’s overall wellness is promoted.”
Earlier this fall, a group of students worked with Dining Services, Student Financial Services and the ID Office to bring the Swipe Out Hunger program to campus, through which IC students can donate one of their allotted guest meal passes each semester to a “bank,” which students in need can access.
The college is currently exploring additional options to help battle food insecurity. For instance, William Guerrero, vice president for finance and administration, is conducting a review of the dining program, which could result in a restructuring of the meal plan offerings. There is also discussion around the adoption of an app that could be used to notify students when there is food left over from a campus event.
“I’m hoping that by taking action, we raise people’s awareness that hunger does exist here and there are things we can do to help solve it,” Lissy said. “As part of our gift, I asked the college to study the issue in more depth, so, as we continue to provide resources, we can study the utilization and learn as time goes on to be sure the gift is being used toward the appropriate need.”
Prunty said additional details will be forthcoming regarding the location, hours, and staffing of the food pantry.