When surveyed, student hunger is seen as the third largest issue affecting campuses, leading students to be unable to concentrate and struggle to maintain their grades. Since 2015, Stockton University’s food assistance program funded by the Student Senate and the Division of Student Affairs has aided food insecurity among students. The program provides students with community resources, dining vouchers, and most importantly, an on campus food pantry.
The food pantry serves over 200 students and hopes that with the recent Hunger Free Campus Grant, the university will be able to help even more. In 2019, the state of New Jersey signed the Hunger Free Campus Act, which set aside one million dollars for higher education institutions to apply for funding.
Dr. Craig Stambaugh, Assistant Vice President of Engagement and Community Development, and Monica Viani, an assistant supervisor for the Dean of Students, were thrilled by the act, and saw it as an opportunity to expand the food pantry to help more students. The first attempt at receiving the grant in 2020 had been hindered by the COVID-19 pandemic. By the winter of 2021, the necessary data and language requirements had changed. Because of this, Stockton had to resubmit the application and saw far greater success as when they secured $80,000 that will fund the food pantry for the next three years, along with the continued funding from Student Senate and Student Affairs.
The grant is used to expand the food pantry, which will now reside within the Townsend Residential Life Center (TRLC). The new facilities will allow for refrigeration and expanded food options for students enrolled in the food assistance program.
“The inventory of the pantry already comes from numerous sources,” said Dr. Stambaugh, “the Community Food Bank of South Jersey, campus food drives, private donations initiated through the ‘wish list’ link on the website, campus food drives, Walmart. Produce from the Stockton farm will be added this fall now that we have refrigeration capabilities. We are also collaborating with our colleagues in Atlantic City to possibly obtain produce from the Atlantic City Farmers Market events.”
With the expansion into the TRLC, enrolled students will know that there is a safe place to solve food insecurity at Stockton. The pantry is also unique because Stockton does not have a point system or visit limitations so students can get whatever they need, whenever they need it. The food pantry also offers meal vouchers in limited quantities for students that need more assistance as well, and for students who need both food and cookware, the pantry can provide necessary pots and pans to students who talk directly to Monica Viani.
For students looking to apply for the food assistance program, the application on the Dean of Students website takes less than two minutes.
For students who are hesitant to apply for the program, Dr. Stambaugh said, “Please understand that the University has established this resource because we understand students often need to make choices between food, books, or other necessities. Hopefully, the presence of the food pantries will eliminate the need to make such choices. Similar to tutoring services, counseling, and other resources, the food pantry is simply an additional resource to help students succeed.”
With the use of the food pantry, Stockton has seen a positive impact on student retention by providing the required supplies to reduce food insecurity. Stockton is getting statewide recognition for their role in addressing student hunger; on September 30, Monica Viani will participate in the NJ College Students panel to address on-campus hunger. For students who want to know how they can help at the pantry, there are student employment positions available, and they can contact Monica Viani at email@example.com.