Communication department looks for way to solve food insecurity

Benjamin Joe, Reporter

At a faculty meeting for the communication department, a problem was brought up that perhaps everyone can understand. That problem is hunger.

The stress of midterms, pop quizzes, research papers, and even the process of graduating on time with all the paperwork and pre-requisites required, proves that college is tough. The last thing anyone needs is to go to bed hungry.

The problem is not an old one. Bruce Bryski is one of the professors who heard the call to help.

“It came up at a faculty meeting. Ruth Goldman brought it up, and basically to bring to our attention that students in all campuses, but including Buffalo State; some of them are going to bed hungry, and I find that troubling and unnecessary,” Bryski said. “I found out there was a food pantry. I wasn’t even aware of that. Then we brought up whether our department could do the same thing and have a departmental food pantry.”

Kim Jablonski is the assistant director for mandated programs at Weigel Health Center and is one of the on-campus contacts for the food pantry, which has been running since 2000. She sat down and talked about it.

“The political correct term is ‘food insecure,’” she said. “If a student comes in and says they’re hungry, we give them food. They don’t have to show us their tax statement or anything, if a student says they’re hungry, I would rather have somebody come and take advantage of us as opposed to someone walk away without getting what they need.”

“There’s no budget. We do not operate on funds at all, we operate on cans of food,” she explained. “The way we get the majority of our food is from the KIA Memorial Road March. We’ve gotten this food from this march for the last three years.

“It’s a military style road march, 10K through Chestnut Ridge Park in Orchard Park, the participants pay a fee and donate between 40 and 50 pounds of food. The expectation is you’re going to carry that,” she said. “That’s where we’ve been getting the majority of our food. For example, this year we ran 14,000 pounds of food, and Buffalo State got a third of it.”

Food also comes in during homecoming week. The food run during homecoming week is largely coordinated by the athletic department.

One of the interesting things about SUNY Buffalo State’s food pantry is that it has no central location. Several people around campus, including Jablonski, supply the food without any physical stockpile in one of the buildings.

One of the issues in gauging the scope of the problem is a lack of data, according to Dr. Theresa Stephan Hains, director of the Weigel Health Center. When students come in, the amount of food that goes out is recorded, but often, names aren’t even taken.

Good data goes a long way in getting grants or asking sponsors, such as Wegman’s, for donations. Hains recalls food insecurity being a problem throughout her career.

“I first came here 23 years ago. This isn’t a new issue, it’s just a bigger issue. The need is greater, there are more students who need food,” Hains said. “Maslow says you need your basic needs met before you go to other needs. So, you need to have a safe place to live, you need to have heat in the winter, you need to have food, and then you can focus on learning, education and relationships, but if you don’t have the basics, you can’t succeed as well.”

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