Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC/CUNY) students, faculty and staff gathered in the BMCC Single Stop office April 23 to celebrate the opening of the college’s new Panther Pantry with a ribbon cutting ceremony.
BMCC students facing a food emergency who visit the Single Stop Office for a needs assessment will now be able to take home a three-day supply of nutritionally balanced, nonperishable food. Single Stop staff will also continue to work with and connect those students to sustainable food sources, primarily the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.
“The BMCC community has always responded to student needs, and this new service takes it to another level, “ said Deborah Harte, Director of BMCC’s Single Stop program. She also said the food pantry will serve an estimated 250 students each month, with plans to expand the program as more funding becomes available.
CUNY’s interim Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Christopher Rosa praised BMCC’s new accomplishment, telling the audience that creating a food pantry is not logistically an easy task. “No college has greater demand for space than BMCC,” he said.
Rosa said the BMCC’s Single Stop is helping change the overall narrative and stigma that often surrounds public assistance.
“BMCC understands we are reframing the conversation about public benefits as a new form of financial aid,” he said.
BMCC leads effort
From the start, the pantry has been an in-house effort coordinated by the Office of Student Affairs and BMCC President Antonio Pérez who arranged for initial project funding from the BMCC Foundation. The college is currently applying for additional financial sources and will also accept nonperishable food donations from faculty and staff.
“For me, this is a moment that hits home,” said Pérez, as he recalled his own childhood when he and his family faced issues of food insecurity. “We must do our part to make certain students don’t go home hungry,” he said.
BMCC Vice President of Student Affairs Marva Craig said addressing food insecurity relates directly to the college’s mission to retain students and ensure they graduate. “Over the years, faculty have reported witnessing students who show up for class hungry, sometimes, those students are in need of food to get them to the finish line.”
Hunger, a national problem among college students
Conversations surrounding the detrimental role that hunger plays in Academic performance have been ongoing for years. In the past 30 days, 36 percent of university students and 42 percent of community college students felt food insecure, according to a recent study from the Hope Lab, a Wisconsin based research laboratory aimed at improving equitable outcomes in postsecondary education. At BMCC, around 71 percent of BMCC students come from families earning less than $30,000 a year, many below the poverty line.
Roseann Ragone, Assistant Director of BMCC Enrollment Management Services brought along a food donation for the pantry.
“I worked in Financial Aid for 27 years and I saw a lot of students who are in need. Giving something to the BMCC community is the right thing to do," she said, “If everyone would donate just one item, imagine what an even more far reaching program this might be.”