CUNY students and on-campus food pantries receive checks during COVID-19 crisis

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Joel C. Bautista | The Ticker

Angelica Tejada

New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, Council Member Ritchie Torres and CUNY Chancellor Félix V. Matos Rodríguez announced that 1,595 students in significant financial need will receive $400 in checks to spend on food at local grocery stores this spring. 

 “There’s long been a crisis of hunger, food insecurity and poverty among the lowest income college students, and the coronavirus outbreak threatens to compound the crisis to an extent not seen before. The Council is committed to addressing food insecurity in the long run,” Torres said

In December, Johnson and Rodríguez announced a $1 million plan to combat food insecurity among CUNY students. The qualified students were given $400 vouchers or swipe cards to spend on meals in participating cafeterias each semester.

The eligibility to be a qualifying student included being enrolled at CUNY for at least 9 credits, not currently being a recipient of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and maintaining a satisfactory grade point average. 

The pool of students selected came from low-income households that had an average family income of $15,605. Priority was given to students who completed a minimum of 45 credits and first-year students. 

From this plan, the City Council will redistribute the funds to individuals since all CUNY campuses, including cafeterias, are closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. CUNY food pantries that remain open on campus can expect $35,000 directly from the City Council. 

“Coronavirus has drastically changed how students learn but our hunger problem among low-income students is the same and so is the Council’s commitment to combating hunger in our city. We don’t want students to sacrifice meals because cafeterias – where they could use city-funded vouchers or swipe cards – are closed. These students need those meals now more than ever to remain healthy,” Johnson said in a statement.

CUNY has offered resources, tools and tips for students to stay connected and healthy as they end their Spring semester. Students who are struggling to access food can find within these CUNY resources different ways they can help themselves and their families access meals around New York City. 

Hunter College’s NYC Food Policy Center is currently creating Coronavirus NYC Food Resource Guides for each New York City neighborhood. On the website, students can find food resources within their communities as well as information on food access for seniors and people with disabilities. 

“The coronavirus crisis has heightened the financial challenges that our most in-need students face. I am pleased that the Council has been able to swiftly switch the vouchers to a payout that students can use for food anywhere,” Rodríguez said in a statement. “These critical funds will make it easier for 1,595 CUNY students to focus on their studies and help feed themselves and their families.”