Montclair State University has been awarded $100,000 as part of the second round of the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER II) Fund from the U.S. Department of Education, Governor Phil Murphy and Secretary of Higher Education Brian Bridges announced Monday.
The grant will allow Montclair State to expand and continue its efforts as a leader in addressing the issue of hunger and food insecurity; in 2016, it became the first four-year university to open a food pantry on campus. Today, the Red Hawk Food Pantry is one of 700 college food pantries nationwide and receives regular support and donations from the community, including Lawrence R. Inserra Jr., CEO of Inserra Supermarkets, and his daughter, Lindsey Inserra Hughes, who operate 23 ShopRite stores.
Associate Dean of Students Fatima deCarvalho said that funds from this grant will be used to conduct more research on how many students face food insecurity, and offer assistance to students navigating SNAP benefits, managing their finances and even building grocery lists.
“We’ve found that college students have a higher rate of food insecurity than the general population, and often have less support,” deCarvalho said. “We want to minimize the stigma and we want students to know that whatever resources we have, like the pantry, we are proud of them.”
Data released in February 2020 from a survey of New Jersey community college students indicated that about 40 percent of respondents were food insecure. The COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly exacerbated the issue nationwide, and Montclair is committed to continuing its work as a Hunger-Free campus.
Campuses must meet certain criteria to achieve a Hunger-Free status designation, including establishing a hunger-free task force, providing students with assistance in applying for SNAP benefits and offering at least one physical food pantry in a stigma-free arrangement.
“Worrying about where your next meal will come from should not be part of the daily challenges that academics and extracurricular activities present to students,” said Assemblywoman Mila Jasey, whose 27th legislative district includes parts of Essex County. “This funding will ease the worries of students and their families, and work towards mitigating food insecurity on college campuses.”
Looking to the future, deCarvalho said the work to end food insecurity is far from over. “It’s a lofty goal, because it’s not just a campus problem, it’s a society problem. How do we tap our community to alleviate it? Because we know if a student is hungry, their academics suffer.”
“The next two years will be pretty busy,” she added.
Visit the Red Hawk Food Pantry page for more information.