Nursing students posing with Rocky the Red Hawk at the School of Nursing Convocation.
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Montclair State Nursing Professor Bikes 200 Miles to Fight Student Food Insecurity

Posted in: News, Nursing Now, Zero Hunger

Professor Andrew Scanlon posing with Rocky the Red Hawk outside of the School of Nursing

“Think global. Act local.”

It’s part of the ethos of the Montclair State University School of Nursing, and it was put into action by Associate Professor Andrew Scanlon, who rode his bike the length of New Jersey – 200 miles – on Saturday, September 14 to raise funds and awareness for the Red Hawk Food Pantry.

“Food insecurity is a global problem,” says Scanlon, “but if we want to see change, it’s so simple to do something locally. I see a great need with the students that Montclair State University serves. Food insecurity shouldn’t be an issue for someone pursuing higher education, but it is.”

Montclair State University became the first four-year university in New Jersey to open a student food pantry on campus when the Office of Student Development and Campus Life launched the Red Hawk Pantry in April 2016. At that time, 10 percent of about 200 Montclair State students surveyed expressed food insecurity on a daily basis, 15 percent expressed a weekly need, and 12 percent reported a monthly need. A 2019 campus survey pointed to a continuing need with 4 in 10 respondents reporting some level of food insecurity.

“This is something that we can do for our University community. It’s hard enough getting a university education; students shouldn’t have this problem to deal with,” says Scanlon.

Scanlon said he became interested in distance cycling as he approached age 40 and wanted to maintain his fitness. Three-mile daily commutes to work turned into longer and longer rides until he began participating in “fondos” – distance road cycling rides – around New Jersey and New York and throughout the world, including Italy, France, Switzerland and his native country of Australia.

In preparing for his fundraising ride, Scanlon drew the connection between nursing, cycling and food security: health. “Nursing is about helping people live healthy lives. Access to food is a basic need that must be addressed.”

Scanlon was supported in his journey by the entire School of Nursing, including Dean Janice Smolowitz, who followed him in cars from the New York border to New Jersey’s southernmost point in Cape May.

“We all followed and supported him!” says Dean Smolowitz, who notes that faculty and staff brought their bikes and helmets – “We’re nurses. We do the right thing.” – to perform a circuit around Montclair State with Scanlon when he arrived on campus early in his trek.

Scanlon’s grueling 200-mile odyssey took about 13.5 hours – including that stop at Montclair State – on a course of back roads that he mapped out using a bike-friendly navigation app. Scanlon wore a Montclair State University-branded jersey and received cheers and honks along the route from his Red Hawk team and others.

The Red Hawk Pantry Ride fundraising page established by Scanlon on the University’s crowdfund platform has elicited well beyond its goal of $1,500; the page remains open for one more week for those who wish to contribute.

“It was a beautiful day and although I would’ve liked to finish earlier, I feel great that I’ve been able to raise money and awareness for the Red Hawk Pantry,” says Scanlon. He effusively thanked his team from the School of Nursing: “My team was great and made sure I had what I needed when I got to each stop.”

“This is what nursing is about,” says Smolowitz. “Helping people live healthy lives. Food is a basic need. Food insecurity needs to be addressed. Andrew’s ride is very much what we believe in as nurses.”

For more information on the Red Hawk Pantry, including hours of operation, visit https://www.montclair.edu/student-services/red-hawk-pantry.