December 12, 2019
At a December 12 press conference hosted at Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC/CUNY), New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and CUNY Chancellor Félix V. Matos Rodríguez announced a $1 million pilot to address food insecurity among CUNY students.
BMCC Interim President Karrin E. Wilks welcomed the guests and spoke about the urgency of emergency food vouchers as it pertains to students’ ability to excel in their studies. Speakers included New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, Director of the Mayor’s Office of Food Policy Kate MacKenzie, District 37 New York City Council Member Rafael Espinal, CUNY Chancellor Felix V. Matos Rodríguez and BMCC Business Administration major Letisha Moumin.
“A student dealing with hardships outside of the classroom can be quickly overwhelmed by the demands of college. I applaud Speaker Johnson for his leadership on this critical issue and I thank the City Council for supporting this important pilot program. The initiative will be a valuable addition to CUNY’s leading-edge efforts to address food insecurity and connect students to life-changing resources that will contribute to their physical and mental well-being and academic success,” said Chancellor Matos Rodríguez.
“College student hunger is a serious problem in New York City. CUNY students should be focused on learning and studying, not where their next meal is coming from. We are one of the richest cities in the world but too many New Yorkers don’t have equitable access to healthy food. The Council is proud to fund this pilot so that more students have access to food instead of skipping meals to survive,” said Council Speaker Corey Johnson.
“We know that to be successful in college, students must have their basic needs met, including having enough food to eat. We are committed to working with our partners to prevent food insecurity among our students. In addition to the recently opened food pantry on campus, these emergency food vouchers will help give our students the support they need to complete their degrees and achieve their dreams. We thank the Speaker, the City Council, and CUNY, for their visionary leadership on this critical issue,” said Karrin E. Wilks, Interim President of BMCC.
“No CUNY student should be hungry in class or have to worry about where their next meal is going to come from. I commend Speaker Johnson and Chancellor Rodriguez for prioritizing this issue. I am committed to working with both of them to make sure the pilot reaches the most number of students possible in ways that work with the busy lives of these students, many of whom are also in the workforce and caring for children,” said Kate Mackenzie, Director of the Mayor’s Office of Food Policy.
“Almost half of college students are food insecure, and this hunger crisis perpetuates poverty in New York City. Here, and anywhere in the world, these conditions are unacceptable. Without nutrition students can’t perform. And our city’s youth not only deserve a proper education, but they deserve to eat and to eat well. In the Council, we have to step up in our role to address this crisis. I’m proud to stand for this great pilot by CUNY and our food leader in the Council, Speaker Corey Johnson,” said Council Member Rafael Espinal.
The program is part of the Speaker’s multi-pronged approach to stemming food inequity in New York. Participants include BMCC as well as Bronx Community College, Hostos Community College, Kingsborough Community College, LaGuardia Community College, Queensborough Community College and Guttman Community College.
Students share their experience with food insecurity
At BMCC, nearly 300 students received up to $400 each in monthly food vouchers for the Fall 2019 semester. The voucher program is administered by the Single Stop Office, which is home to the Panther (food) Pantry as well as other resources to help BMCC students facing food insecurity.
“BMCC students truly reflect the city in which they live, given a recent report that tells us the rate of food insecurity in New York City is 12 percent higher than the national rate,” said BMCC Vice President for Student Affairs Marva Craig. “Here on campus, we notice that an increasing number of our students are facing food insecurity and seeking help from our Panther Pantry, which has served well over 2,200 students since it opened last year. That’s why we are so grateful that the New York City Council’s grant will help us expand the number of hungry students we can identify, support and serve through our Single Stop Office.”
Letisha Moumin, a business administration major who grew up in the Bronx, regards the Panther Pantry as an important resource at the college. “More students should take advantage of it,” she says. “Sometimes they’re ashamed to use it, but being hungry shouldn’t be something to be ashamed about.”
Moumin says that when food shopping for herself and her two children, “Money is tight. Between paying bills and paying rent, my priority is, ‘Do I have enough for the kids? Do I have snacks for my daughter’s school?’ I will go to class without eating for a day sometimes, and it’s hard to stay alert and focused. With food vouchers from the Panther Pantry I can get a hot meal or a snack and drink at the cafeteria, something to hold me till I get home without getting light-headed or dizzy in class.”
Criminal Justice major Yohanna Recio has also received food vouchers through the BMCC Single Stop office, and says the timing of this support has been critical. “I had to quit my job this semester because it was hard to work full time and be a student full time. I have taken food home from the Panther Pantry, and it was very helpful.”
Recio plans to transfer to John Jay College of Criminal Justice then attend law school and assist individuals who are incarcerated and aren’t getting the medical attention they need. Meanwhile, she says, “If I knew someone at BMCC who needed help with their food budget, I would tell them go to Single Stop because they have the Pantry and food vouchers. Also, they help you with SNAP benefits and getting a MetroCard with a reduced fare.”
Dilshod Azamov, a Public Accounting, Business Management and Finance major, grew up in Tajikistan and lives in Brooklyn. “After I graduate from BMCC, I want to major in business management and finance, and work in an investment banking firm,” he says. “I applied for Baruch, Brooklyn College and Lehman College. So far, Lehman has accepted me and I’m waiting for the rest.”
Now in his last semester at BMCC, “I’ve been using vouchers from Single Stop to buy food at the cafeteria,” Azamov says. “I study full time and my family helps me a little, but asking them for lunch money — that isn’t really appropriate. It can really add up for them. I’ve known other students who don’t have enough money to buy lunch so they’re just going to the vending machines, and I’ve been telling them about this program.”
To learn more about the December 12 press conference at BMCC announcing the $1 million plan to address hunger among CUNY students, click here.
To read Speaker Corey Johnson’s report, Growing Food Equity in New York City, a City Council Agenda, click here.
To learn more about efforts CUNY-wide to combat hunger on campus, click here.
If you are a BMCC student facing a food emergency, please visit the Panther Pantry in the BMCCSingle Stop office at 199 Chambers Street, Room S-230. Single Stop staff can also assist students with legal services, financial counseling, tax preparation, health insurance, and provide support for students who are parents or expecting a child.
- New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and CUNY Chancellor Félix V. Matos Rodríguez announce $1 million pilot to address food insecurity among CUNY students
- In Fall 2019 and Spring 2020 semesters, 1,250 qualifying students will receive $400 in vouchers for campus cafeterias
- BMCC is participating in the program, as well as other CUNY community colleges