Earlier this month, two CUNY institutes, Healthy CUNY and the CUNY Urban Food Policy Institute, met with community partners with the goal of addressing hunger and food insecurity within the CUNY community. Healthy CUNY, is a university-wide initiative that promotes health to increase academic success, and the CUNY Urban Food Policy Institute is a research action center that aims to make healthy food more accessible. The aim of the meeting was to coordinate the activities and services of the attendees in an effort to ensure that all CUNY students had access to the affordable food needed for health and academic success.
The event, hosted by the CUNY School of Public Health, was attended by faculty and staff involved with food pantries and programs at Borough of Manhattan, Bronx, Guttman, Hostos , and Kingsborough Community Colleges, Baruch, College of Staten Island, and Queens College, as well as CUNY Student Services. Other participating organizations included the Food Bank for New York City, Single Stop USA, the Jewish Foundation for Education of Women, and The Work First Foundation.
Nick Freudenberg, the faculty director for Healthy CUNY and the CUNY Urban Food Policy Institute, and Michelle Honan, a CUNY SPH student, provided an overview of the prevalence of health conditions that undermine the academic success of CUNY students. Freudenberg and Honan presented findings from a 2015 survey of CUNY undergraduates that showed almost 15%, or an estimated 36,000 students, reported that they had gone hungry often or sometimes in the past 12 months. This staggering number highlighted the urgency of the task facing CUNY and the assembled coalition.
A comparison of the 2015 findings with an earlier survey from 2011, in which 23% of students reported hunger or food insecurity in the previous 12 months, showed a 37% decline in the rate of hunger over four years. Freudenberg explains, “The significant decline in the proportion of students who reported they were often hungry shows that working together, CUNY faculty, staff and students can reduce the most serious health and social problems facing our students. Our challenge now is to develop a strategy to make hunger history for CUNY students.”