Chancellor King Highlights SUNY Commitment to Improve Student Food Security

February 15, 2024

SUNY and Benefits Data Trust Have Partnered to Address Food Insecurity at Five Community Colleges

Part of Governor Hochul's State of the State Priority to Build System-Wide Strategy to Address Food Insecurity and Help College Students Succeed

Schenectady, NY – At a visit to SUNY Schenectady's food pantry for a discussion on student food security, State University of New York Chancellor John B. King, Jr. highlighted SUNY's work to improve student success by connecting students to SNAP and other public benefits programs.

Consistent with Governor Kathy Hochul's 2024 State of the State direction for SUNY to address food insecurity among students, SUNY has called on campus presidents to ensure that beginning in Fall 2024, every eligible student will be identified and receive personalized outreach and application support for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). To support campuses in this work, SUNY and the national non-profit organization Benefits Data Trust (BDT) are working with five SUNY community colleges, including SUNY Schenectady, on personalized outreach efforts connecting eligible students with the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to remove food insecurity as a barrier to students reaching their full academic potential.

BDT and SUNY are utilizing a new BDT toolkit to determine the most effective ways to reach out to students who are potentially eligible and use existing data to connect them to SNAP and other public benefit programs. At SUNY Schenectady County Community College, the campus and BDT are developing the most effective outreach language, determining whether students prefer support to be self-service or in-person, and training and coaching staff on connecting eligible students with application resources.

"SUNY is committed to student success, and a student cannot fully focus on their education if they live in a constant state of concern about when their next meal will be. Nationally, 23% of undergraduates and 12% of graduate students report having experienced food insecurity, according to the National Center for Education Statistics," said SUNY Chancellor King. "Those numbers are unacceptable. Through increased investment and partnerships like this one, SUNY is addressing our students' basic needs, removing obstacles to attending college and finishing with a degree or certificate."

The five community colleges participating in the partnership with BDT are:

  • Finger Lakes Community College
  • Monroe Community College
  • SUNY Orange
  • SUNY Schenectady County Community College
  • SUNY Westchester Community College

SUNY Schenectady County Community College has an authorized SNAP retailer on campus, a resource hub where students can meet with a Nutrition Outreach and Education Program Coordinator on campus, and was recently awarded a grant to add refrigerated lockers to the food pantry so that students can pick up food at a time convenient for them.

Income-eligible students at SUNY community colleges that are enrolled in programs that help prepare students directly for a career program, or who work more than 20 hours a week, may be eligible for SNAP benefits, which could mean $135 a month for groceries.

This past summer, the SUNY Student Information and Campus Administrative Systems (SICAS) center built an online enrollment verification form available in Banner 9 Self-Service for students to improve SNAP participation for eligible students.

Thanks to Governor Kathy Hochul and the New York State Legislature's investment in SUNY's operating budget, SUNY has been able to take steps to address campus food insecurity by allocating $1 million in ongoing, state-supported operating funding to provide financial assistance for campus food pantries.

Benefits Data Trust CEO Trooper Sanders, said, "As colleges and universities across the country focus on student support and retention, helping eligible students apply for public benefits is a critical strategy. Programs like SNAP are essential to helping more students have the financial footing to pursue and complete their degree. We're honored to work with SUNY to build their capacity to communicate about and connect students to public assistance."

Finger Lakes Community College President Robert K. Nye said, "One of the chief reasons students leave school is trouble meeting basic living expenses. This partnership will make it easier for students to get the help they need to stay on track to graduate."

SUNY Schenectady President Steady Moono said, "It is critical that we do all that we can to eliminate barriers to higher education and this includes easing food insecurity. We need to reach out to students to make them aware of the assistance that is out there for them. The partnership between SUNY and BDT is a very powerful step in this direction. We are grateful that SUNY Schenectady students will benefit from this new initiative that will impact them in profound ways so that rather than being concerned about having enough food on the table, they can focus on their studies and the hopes and dreams that they have for the future."

Monroe Community College President DeAnna R. Burt-Nanna said, "Food insecurity is real and poses a significant challenge to our students' ability to pursue an education. With close to 50% of MCC students identifying as food insecure in a recent survey conducted by the Hope Center at Temple University, we understand the essential need to address the issue of food insecurity for our students. We are proud to be in partnership with Benefits Data Trust (BDT) and look forward to working with our partners to eradicate food insecurity for MCC students."

SUNY Orange President Kristine Young said, "We don't want hunger to be a barrier to academic success. But more importantly, we don't want hunger to negatively affect a student's quality of life. We can make an impact. Having additional resources through this partnership with BDT will allow us to directly connect with more students and broaden awareness of resources available to them. Our on-campus food pantries are well-known and popular resources, and now we can connect students with even more local nutritional programs and SNAP benefits."

SUNY Westchester Community College President Belinda S. Miles said, "We are honored to add Benefits Data Trust to our work combating food insecurity at SUNY WCC. Our college serves a very diverse population, with many students facing food and housing insecurity, financial struggles and more. Anything we can do to help alleviate these hardships increases the chances of these students successfully achieving their academic goals and becoming part of the economic engine that propels our region."

About Benefits Data Trust

Benefits Data Trust (BDT) improves health and financial security by harnessing the power of data,

technology, and policy to provide dignified and equitable access to assistance. Together with a national

network of government agencies and partners, we efficiently connect people today to programs that pay for food, healthcare, and more while helping to modernize benefits access for tomorrow. A nonprofit since 2005, BDT has secured more than $10 billion in benefits for households across the country, helping to reduce hunger and poverty and build pathways to economic mobility. Learn more at www.bdtrust.org

About the State University of New York
The State University of New York, which celebrates its 75th anniversary this year, 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 country’s oldest school of maritime, the state’s only college of optometry, and manages one US Department of Energy National Laboratory. In total, SUNY serves about 1.4 million students amongst its entire portfolio of credit- and non-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 2022, 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 opportunities, visit suny.edu.


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