The State of Food Security at CUNY in 2020: An Assessment and Recommendations

CUNY provides tens of thousands of New Yorkers with the lifelong benefits of a college degree. For too many students, however, food insecurity and other unmet basic needs can undermine the promise of higher education, delaying graduation or contributing to dropout. Too often, students like those quoted above describe how food insecurity impedes their ability to succeed and remain in school. Too many students have to choose between having enough to eat and focusing on their education, having to decide whether to pay for a textbook, a MetroCard, or a meal. Despite widespread recognition of the health, economic and social benefits of a college education, CUNY and other universities miss opportunities to prevent student food insecurity.

This report seeks to provide key constituencies at CUNY— from its leaders, faculty, staff and students to City and State policymakers who fund CUNY— with the evidence to make informed decisions about promoting food security and academic success at CUNY. At the same time, the findings of this report show that CUNY can do more to assure that all of its students achieve food security. Achieving this goal starts with examining CUNY’s current efforts to reduce food insecurity.

The report is based on eight sources of information collected by Healthy CUNY and Hope Center researchers over the last two years. These include:

  1. 2018 Healthy CUNY Student Health Survey
  2. 2018 Hope Center’s #RealCollege Survey at City University of New York (CUNY)
  3. 2019 CUNY Environmental Scan of Food Security Resources on CUNY Campuses
  4. 2019 Healthy CUNY Campus visits: Fall 2019
  5. 2019 Interviews with Community Based Organizations Providing Food Security Programs at CUNY
  6. 2020 Hope Center Survey of CUNY Food Pantries
  7. 2020 CUNY Understanding Barriers to SNAP Utilization at CUNY Survey and Interviews
  8. The 2020 CUNY Coronavirus Epidemic Impact Survey

This report seeks to contribute to a conversation at CUNY, within city and state governments, among philanthropic and civil society organizations and with students, voters and taxpayers about what each can do to make significant progress in ending food insecurity among CUNY students.