NEW BRITAIN - Central Connecticut State University and Stop & Shop have taken their partnership in supporting food insecurity among students a step further, and celebrated with an oversized check presentation and ribbon cutting at CCSU’s on-campus food pantry.
“Thank you all for joining us here today for this celebration and the opportunity to express our deep appreciation for a very generous donation to our food pantries throughout our CSCU (Connecticut State Colleges and Universities) school system,” said John Tully, Interim President for Student Affairs at CCSU.
CSCU offers $100,000 to the 17 Connecticut State Colleges and Universities and campuses across the state, according to Maura O’Brien, External Communications & Community Relations Manager for Stop & Shop in Connecticut.
“The Stop & Shop school food pantry program began right before the pandemic in 2019 with one small school that had a teacher approach us saying, ‘my students are going home and they don’t know where their dinner is going to come from’. And since then the pandemic has happened and we are proud to say that we have more than 100 school food pantries across five states in the northeast now,” said O’Brien.
With the addition of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities, including Maria’s Place at CCSU, Stop & Shop now has 35 school food pantries in the state.
“The $100,000 commitment allows us to give anywhere from $2,500 to Charter Oak Sate College which you may know is a fully online college but since 80% of their students live in Connecticut they know that some of their students have this issue so they were included in this donation; through to the $8,000 that CCSU is receiving,” explained Lesley D. Mara, JD, Director of Strategic Initiatives, Sponsored Research and Outreach for Connecticut State Colleges and Universities. “But every one of our institutions is getting part of this donation to allow them to stock their pantries.”
This huge donation allows CSCU to really do something as a system as opposed to piecemeal one institution at a time.
“It also allows us also to capitalize on a public-private partnership. So we are a public institution of higher ed. and we certainly have been trying to raise money to stock those pantries but when an organization like Stop & Shop comes forward it really means a lot,” said Mara.
Each CSCU food pantry will be allowed to not only stock up on food, but other essential items the students may need based on a survey they take.
“We’re not limiting any CSCU campus from what they can get from our store,” said O’Brien.
Connecticut State Colleges and Universities have been looking at the issue of food insecurity for a number of years and in 2019 conducted a survey among the students in the system.
“We had over 3,000 students respond,” expressed Mara. “53% reported that they worried about whether their food would last in time for them to get their next paycheck. More than 60% reported that they often or sometimes could not afford to eat a balanced meal. And 20% reported not eating for at least a whole day because they simply couldn’t afford food.”
Even though these numbers are already staggering, Mara added that covid-19 has made the situation even more difficult.
“We do a survey on food insecurity and housing insecurity each year,” said Zulma Toro, CCSU President. “I got the results back a week ago and they are really concerning because it shows that the percentage of our students who declare that they have experienced some kind of food insecurity within the last few weeks increased significantly from before the pandemic.”
Though Stop & Shop has been a partner with a few of our colleges before Mara reached out to them at the end of last year and asked them whether they would consider this major partnership and they agreed.
“Stop & Shop has provided us with many giftcards and funds to support CCSU students facing food insecurity,” said Radeana Hastings, graduate intern.