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For the last two years, the Rutgers community has participated in Giving Tuesday — a social media-organized holiday focused on charitable action in light of a busy shopping season. This year, donations will go toward supporting the University’s student food pantries.
The effort, led by the Rutgers University Foundation, lets donors take their pick at 1 of 3, if not all, Rutgers food pantries at the New Brunswick, Newark and Camden campuses. So far, Giving Tuesday has collected more than $1,625 with the promise of filling a plate and feeding a mind, according to the fundraiser’s page.
“Food insecurity has become increasingly prevalent on college campuses across the nation. Rutgers is no exception. Whether that means students skip meals because they are low on funds or they don't consume enough quality food, without access to nutritious meals, it’s difficult for students to thrive,” according to the page.
The site estimated that, on average, $40 covers one student's food pantry visit with a week’s worth of groceries and toiletries including vegetables, canned beans, pasta and more. At the pantry, students are assisted in figuring out what to take and how much based on their needs.
A 2016 survey of 3,765 students in 12 states found nearly 50 percent of participants reported food insecurity within the last 30 days — 22 percent reported levels of food security so low they classify them as hungry, according to a study from numerous on-campus organizations.
That same year, Rutgers introduced student pantries at all three of its campuses with the goal of making access to food and toiletries easier, but it was not long after that the University’s Task Force on Student Aid noted these pantries are underfunded.
“Rutgers is aware of the food insecurity some students may face, and efforts are underway to provide a solution. To combat food insecurity, Rutgers has created food pantries at all three University locations and, although underfunded, each food pantry receives discretionary funding from multiple streams to aid students who need emergency assistance,” according to a 2017 report by the Task Force on Student Aid.
It was estimated that approximately 5.5 percent of students used an off-campus pantry. During 2017, the New Brunswick location attracted more than 300 students, some who came on a part-time and regular basis.
The pantry is funded in part by the Office of the Secretary through donations made by the Board of Governors and Board of Trustees to the Fehrenbach Fund — established with the purpose of funding an on-campus student food pantry — as well as a portion of the budget of the Office of Off-Campus Living and Partnerships. Additional donations are made by Student Affairs organizations including fraternities and sororities, student-run groups such as the Rutgers University Student Assembly (RUSA) and donation drives like Giving Tuesday.
“We think if someone can afford college, they have enough money to afford food,” said Ellen Daley, nutritionist and director of Rutgers University-Newark Student Food Pantry in an interview with Rutgers Today. “But the reality is many more students are coming to college thanks to scholarships. While families provide what they can to help, many students understand all too well the financial struggles that remain at home and don’t have a safety net when they run out of money.”
The Rutgers Student Food Pantry is found on 39 Union St. and stays open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. It is open to any student with their RUID, appointment necessary, and welcomes donations such as cereals, canned items and personal care items, according to its site.