If Gov. Andrew Cuomo gets his way, New York will become the first state to require public colleges and universities to have on-campus food pantries for students.
The proposal is part of Cuomo's five-point plan to address student hunger. While governor's initiative focuses mainly on young children, the mandate for campuses to have food pantries is included in his 2018 State of the State agenda.
Hunger on Campus, a report released in 2016, found nearly half of college students surveyed lacked access to food during the previous 30-day period. Food security impacted students at community colleges and four-year institutions.
Cuomo aims to address hunger among college students by requiring State University of New York and City University of New York campuses to have physical food pantries or facilitate the delivery of food from an outside food bank.
The state would support the SUNY and CUNY food pantries with a $1 million investment, according to Cuomo's plan released Thursday.
There are already several SUNY institutions that have on-campus food pantries for students. The Bear Necessities Food Pantry on the Binghamton University campus is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday for students with proper identification.
On the university's website, there is an explanation for why the school has a food pantry.
"Many students come to campus with limited resources and little experience managing their needs," the description reads. "Hunger makes it difficult to study, sleep or engage in academics and social activities at the same level as peers. If students' physiological needs aren't being met, it ultimately decreases the chances of meeting their full potential and their overall experience at Binghamton University."
Other SUNY schools have food pantries either on campus or access to offsite locations. University at Albany students are given access to an off-campus food pantry. SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry students may use their IDs to pick up food at the Hendricks Chapel food pantry on the Syracuse University campus.
Stony Brook University, one of the largest state colleges in New York, has a food pantry that is operated by several student organizations. The pantry is a member of the College and University Food Bank Alliance.
Some New York community colleges also have on-campus food pantries. Cayuga Community College announced last fall that a food pantry for students opened at its Auburn campus. A pantry is planned for the college's Fulton campus in Oswego County.
"Any student in need is welcome," said Jeff Rosenthal, CCC's vice president of student affairs.
There is a growing number of SUNY schools with food pantries for students, but not all campuses have one. A review of college websites, news articles and other online resources found that roughly half of SUNY institutions have student food pantries. This includes schools with access to offsite food banks or mobile food banks that visit campuses.
Cuomo's plan would change that by requiring schools to provide access to a food pantry. He hopes the state Legislature will support his proposal and the broader five-point plan to address student hunger in New York.
"This program is essential to the success of future New York leaders and this administration remains committed to removing barriers to healthy food options, while providing a supportive, effective learning environment for students across this great state," he said.
Cuomo will deliver his State of the State address Jan. 3 in Albany.