CONNECTICUT, USA — Food insecurity continues to rise, and pantries everywhere are feeling the impact. In 2019, Connecticut State Colleges and Universities (CSCU) did a system-wide survey. It identified that more than 60% of students reported that they often or sometimes could not afford to eat balanced meals.
Lesley Mara is the Executive Director, Strategic Initiatives, Sponsored Research & Outreach of Connecticut State Colleges and Universities. She said the findings showed that students are disproportionately impacted by hunger.
"20% of them reported that they didn't eat a whole day because they didn't have money to buy food," explained Mara. "Over half of them reported that they sometimes or often felt that their food ran out before they afford to buy more."
Mara said they've since noticed that the COVID-19 pandemic has only worsened those numbers, which is why on-campus pantries like Maria's Place are vital.
"We know that if a student is going to class hungry, they can't give their best self to their studies, and they can't give their best selves to being a student," explained grad student Radeana Hastings Maria's Place Campus Pantry supervisor.
Maura O'Brien with Stop & Shop said this is one of the many reasons the local supermarket is helping keep shelves stocked, with a $100,000 donation to support students facing food insecurity across CSCU's 17 Campuses.
"It affects everyone and we want to make sure that students in Connecticut have access to food and other essentials that they need," said O'Brien.
As Hastings explained, this donation further allows campus pantries to provide food and toiletries, school supplies, and baby items for students, faculty, and staff.
Mara agreed and said they hope partnering with companies like Stop & Shop sends a clear message that the need is vast and ongoing.
"This is a community problem, so we're hoping they start some movement to add more support for people who are food insecure," emphasized Mara.
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