Cuomo Can Do More To Keep College Students Fed

Good for the State University at New York and Jamestown Community College for making sure their students have access to food in advance of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s December deadline.

Earlier this year the governor announced his “No Student Goes Hungry Program” that mandated all New York state public colleges at SUNY and the City University of New York have fully-functioning food pantries by the end of the fall semester in December.

Fredonia’s food pantry was established in 2017 by the Student Health Center, Counseling Center and the Office of Campus Life. The food pantry was recognized by SUNY Student Affairs as a Best Practice Program for Non-Traditional Students. At JCC, a food pantry was created around 2013 when Tom Meara, sustainability senior project manager, and Shannon Bessette, anthropology professor, noticed a need for one. Bessette said college faculty would frequently engage students who were extremely tired and stress — a leading cause for the exhaustion was hunger. JCC now has food pantries at its campuses in Olean, Dunkirk and Jamestown.

Making sure students have access to food pantries is a good start, but something else Bessette told The Post-Journal’s Jordan Patterson last week should be of concern to state officials. It seems the need for the food pantry fluctuates throughout the school year and during each semester. Students use the food pantry more during the beginning of a semester and again near the end of one, Bessette believes because of financial aid and how it’s distributed. Bessette said students occasionally receive financial aid later than expected at the beginning of a semester and near the end of the semester financial aid support may have been completely spent.

Cuomo took a good first step by making sure the state’s colleges have food pantries available for students who need it. Now, the governor should make sure the state isn’t contributing to the problem with late financial aid payments or a system that isn’t giving enough aid in the first place.