Chancellor Malatras Announces Grant Program to Expand SUNY Campus Pantry Resources to Combat Food Insecurity Made Worse for Students During the Pandemic

February 14, 2021

Critical Issue Raised by SUNY Student Voices Action Committee Results in SUNY Making Available Grants Up to $1,000 Per Eligible Campus to Purchase Refrigerators to Provide Students Experiencing Food Insecurity Proteins and Fresh Food

Announced Today at Binghamton University Food Pantry, A Model Program Open Throughout COVID with Online Ordering to Make it Easier for Students to Get Food

Chancellor is Joined by President Harvey Stenger and Student Voices Action Committee Member and Binghamton Student Jacob Eckhaus 

Photos Are Available Online Here


Binghamton, NY
– State University of New York Chancellor Jim Malatras today announced a grant program to expand SUNY campus pantry resources to combat food insecurity—an issue that’s become even more dire for students during the pandemic. SUNY will provide grants to campuses without the financial means or ability to procure refrigerators in their food pantries, making it possible for every campus to store more fresh food and protein. Student Associations or campus food pantry coordinators will be able to apply for a grant of up to $1,000 on behalf of their campus.

The food refrigeration issue was first raised by Binghamton University student Jacob Eckhaus, a member of the SUNY Student Voices Action Committee. The committee was formed by Chancellor Malatras this past fall to generate important discussions and solutions to key issues facing students.

As part of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s "No Student Goes Hungry" program, there is a food pantry on or partnered with every SUNY campus. Those pantries experienced nearly 320,000 visits in 2019. Since the onset of the pandemic, campuses have experienced a notable increase in food pantry usage.

Approximately 50 percent of SUNY’s 64 campus food pantries, including the pantry at Binghamton University, are currently equipped with refrigerators. The Binghamton University Food Pantry has stayed open throughout the pandemic for students on campus and in the community confronted with lost wages and difficulty in accessing food. This semester, approximately the pantry has been utilized 1,200 times with a 43 percent increase in the number of students visiting the food pantry each week pre-pandemic. This program will make sure every campus food pantry has refrigeration.

"As we deal with the challenges of COVID, we must do everything in our power to help our students succeed. Food insecurity is a major problem with more than a third of our students going hungry at some point before the pandemic and we’re seeing an even greater spike in student hunger because of COVID," said Chancellor Malatras. "The pangs of hunger should not cloud a student’s education. We must act, and today’s grant program will go a long way in providing much-needed meals to students in need. I applaud our SUNY Student Voices Action Committee, particularly member Jacob Eckhaus, for raising this as the number one issue for many of their peers. I thank President Stenger and his team for their focus on facing the issue of food insecurity with solutions including this model food pantry and program that I hope we can replicate throughout SUNY."

Binghamton University President Harvey Stenger said, "There are students struggling with food insecurity and failing to maintain proper nutrition because of low income or difficulty in accessing food. I commend Chancellor Malatras for his efforts as our food pantry and those across the SUNY system provide an absolutely necessary resource for students’ well-being, supporting them so they can achieve their academic goals."

Student Voices Action Committee Member and Binghamton Student Jacob Eckhaus said, "The Food Pantry at Binghamton University is a life saver for so many students here, and due to proper storage and refrigeration, plus generous donations, they have a variety to choose from. I am thankful Chancellor Malatras is taking this action to make sure every SUNY campus pantry can provide the same. It is an honor to serve on the Student Voices Action Committee and to be able to help create solutions that can benefit more students."

Due to the increase in usage and to ensure appropriate social distancing, the Binghamton University Food Pantry moved to an online ordering and pick-up model in mid-April, allowing any student to place an order on the Food Pantry’s website once a week. Pantry staff then package the food and distribute bags to students for pick up at a prearranged time, twice a week.

The effectiveness of the Food Pantry during the COVID-19 pandemic has been in large part thanks to the donations from diverse benefactors. Local restaurants and churches have offered support; faculty, staff, alumni and parents have provided money and goods; and students have donated leftover dining balances toward frozen meat, fish, vegetables and dairy products supplied by Binghamton University Dining Services.

In addition to having food pantries on campuses, Chancellor Malatras has established additional programs to get resources and food to students as part of the SUNY for All program. Last week, he announced a partnership with Feeding New York to help approximately three million New Yorkers utilizing regional food banks with a gateway to SUNY's free Online Training Center.

New York's regional Food Banks will help deliver enrollment opportunities and support to the nearly three million New Yorkers currently facing food insecurity. As part of the partnership, SUNY will conduct joint enrollment webinars with food banks on a quarterly basis. Participating regional Food Banks are:

  • City Harvest
  • Feeding Westchester
  • FeedMore Western NY
  • Foodlink
  • Food Bank of the Southern Tier
  • Food Bank of Central New York
  • Island Harvest Food Bank
  • Long Island Cares, Inc.
  • Regional Food Bank of Northeastern NY

Also last week, he announced a SUNY for All Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program enrollment initiative to assist 10,000 students facing food insecurity within SUNY’s free Online Training Center, Education Opportunity Centers, and Advanced Technology Training and Information Networking labs. It is designed to help those who are eligible for benefits, but who—for a wide range of reasons—don’t sign up. An internal survey of SUNY students showed that only 23 percent of eligible students considered even enrolling in SNAP. The new enrollment initiative was implemented to boost the number of applicants.

In order to be eligible for SUNY's new SNAP enrollment initiative, students must be engaged at least half-time in career and technical education program, remedial course, basic adult education, literacy, or English as a second language, which are available within SUNY's free Online Training Center, Educational Opportunity Centers, and Advanced Technology Training and Information Networking labs. Previously, these students did not qualify for SNAP assistance, unless they met certain criteria such as working at least 20 hours per week, or caring for a child, or were unable to work, among others. New York State's new rules allow students to substitute certain coursework for the 20-hour work requirement, greatly opening eligibility to students who are struggling financially.

To learn more about the SUNY for All programs, visit suny.edu/sunyforall.

About the State University of New York
The State University of New York is the largest comprehensive system of higher education in the United States, and more than 95 percent of all New Yorkers live within 30 miles of any one of SUNY’s 64 colleges and universities. Across the system, SUNY has four academic health centers, five hospitals, four medical schools, two dental schools, a law school, the state’s only college of optometry, and manages one US Department of Energy National Laboratory. In total, SUNY serves about 1.3 million students in credit-bearing courses and programs, continuing education, and community outreach programs. SUNY oversees nearly a quarter of academic research in New York. Research expenditures system-wide are nearly $1.1 billion in fiscal year 2021, including significant contributions from students and faculty. There are more than three million SUNY alumni worldwide, and one in three New Yorkers with a college degree is a SUNY alum. To learn more about how SUNY creates opportunity, visit suny.edu.


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