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Red Hawk Food Pantry Receives Donation from Goya Foods

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woman unpacking boxes
Red Hawk Pantry Coordinator Sonja Tillman unpacks some of the 44 cases of food donated recently by Goya Foods, Inc.

When students pick up groceries at the Red Hawk Food Pantry this summer, they will find new items in their bags – products from Goya Foods, Inc.

As part of Goya’s effort to address food insecurity during the current national public health crisis, the Jersey City-based company donated 44 cases of rice, beans and other grocery items to the Red Hawk Pantry last week.

“We appreciate the donation of so much food to help our students. It will go a long way this summer,” said Sonja Tillman, the coordinator of Student Center Programming and the Red Hawk Pantry.

“We know food insecurity is a big issue among college students and something we’ve seen grow in recent months,” said Goya spokesman, Rafael Toro, director of Public Relations. “We hope this donation will help. Students shouldn’t have to worry about where their next meal is coming from – they should be focused on studying.”

Indeed, hunger is a reality on college campuses across the country. Students say they forgo food in order to buy books or pay tuition. Others struggle to concentrate in class because of skipped meals or eating smaller meals because they don’t have enough money for food.

Montclair State has been a leader in fighting food insecurity since 2016, when it became the first four-year university in New Jersey to open a food pantry on campus, and gifts from generous supporters like Goya Foods and longtime supporter, Inserra Supermarkets, help students directly.

Since the Red Hawk Pantry opened, it has met a growing need – more than 1,000 total visits, according to Sonja Tillman, the coordinator of Student Center Programming and the Red Hawk Pantry.

When the Pantry opened, there were only 300 college food pantries nationwide. As of 2019, there were more than 700, according to the College and University Food Bank Alliance.

Sonja Tillman unpacking donations from Goya

Katia Paz Goldfarb, assistant vice president for Hispanic Serving Initiatives, reached out to Goya, the largest Hispanic-owned food company in the country, after “reading about the unbelievable work Goya has been doing in delivering food to multiple communities.”

“I shared that we have students and staff members that rely on us to feed themselves or to supplement their needs,” Paz Goldfarb said. “Without a thought, without hesitation, a delivery was set.”

As an essential business, Toro said, Goya teams are working “24/7 to keep up with the demand” and to keep delivering food to supermarkets across the country and making  donations to pantries, food banks and soup kitchens in New York, New Jersey, Illinois, Texas and elsewhere. “Food insecurity existed before this happened, and it’s worse now, so we are doing what we can to help out during this unprecedented public health crisis,” he said.

Even though instruction and support services have been 100% online since mid-March, about 450 students and some essential workers remained on campus during the spring semester, and students taking summer classes who have no place else to go continue to live on campus. The Red Hawk Pantry has been open throughout the crisis as well – and students can pick up pre-packed packages of food to go.

“Because of social distancing, they can no longer come in and ‘shop’ because the space is too small, but I make up bags of staples and essentials for them,” Tillman said.

Paz Goldfarb had a message for Goya Foods: “The Gran Familia Goya has demonstrated one more time its commitment to deliver when needed. The organization’s core values have excelled in these unprecedented times. You are part of our Red Hawk familia, muchísimas gracias!”

Story by Laura Griffin

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