Columbia College Student Council and the Engineering Student Council have voted to support a revised partnership that funds a food bank operated by General Studies Student Council, two weeks after turning down larger, more expensive proposals.
The food bank was created by GSSC last spring to meet the needs of food-insecure students, a perennial concern that undergraduate councils, student groups, and administrators have grappled to address over the course of the past two years, with council members voicing frustration over the lack of a winning solution.
This agreement means that food bank disbursements to Columbia College or School of Engineering and Applied Science students will be covered by that student’s respective council—up to $1,000 per council—and not by GSSC.
CCSC and ESC both turned down joint ventures with GSSC two weeks ago, because GSSC was unable to provide them with a breakdown of costs for the $6,000 that they requested.
While both councils were overall in favor of supporting food-insecure students, several CCSC members expressed concerns that the food bank will be completely unfunded by administrative offices and deans. The bank’s entire budget comes from student councils, and ten months after its founding, it still operates out of a storage closet in Lewisohn Hall, lacking a permanent on-campus space.
“I don’t understand what the University’s game plan is when there’s kids going hungry, but they’re going to leave this to student council bodies and student life budgets to solve that problem,” University Senator Sean Ryan, CC ’17, said at Sunday’s general body meeting. “I’m really proud of the students that have put this together, but long term, this makes no sense that we’re building new buildings 10 blocks up [at the Manhattanville campus] and kids are going hungry.”
So far, the University has attempted to fight food insecurity through the Emergency Meal Fund, which provides six free meals per semester to students. GS administrators have also distributed meal vouchers to the restaurant Dig Inn.
Some CCSC members argued that the food bank’s current structure seems haphazard and unsustainable with a pay-per-use arrangement and without administrative support.
“I don’t think it makes much sense to say we will put money toward this cause,” Vice President for Campus Life Nathan Rosin, CC ’18, said. “It doesn’t seem very well thought out. It seems like there should be a program that deals with this, not a random application of money.”
“This doesn’t seem to be a sustainable solution,” Vice President for Finance Anuj Sharma, CC ’17, said. “If we put into place some sort of a long-run plan that doesn’t involve a continuous contribution from us, that would make much more sense.”
Beyond the food bank, CCSC, ESC, GSSC, and the First-Generation Low-Income Partnership plan to start work next week with an outside organization, Share Meals, to create an app that will replace the failed Swipes app and enable food-insecure students to receive free meal swipes from their peers.