Oct

4

The Food Bank Sets Eye Towards Future With Columbia Ribbon Cutting Today

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A photo of the new location of the Food Bank at Columbia, stocked with food.
A photo of the new location of the Food Bank at Columbia, stocked with food.

A photo of the food bank, ready for more photos

Food insecurity is a pressing and prevalent concern here at Columbia and finally (why did it take so long?) we have a food bank! Bwogger, Ross Chapman, gives us an update on the new Food Bank at Columbia, as well as highlighting the university’s past food insecurity-related failures.

The Food Bank at Columbia will hold a ribbon cutting ceremony at 4:30 pm today at its new location, in the Southeast corner of Lerner 5. The photo opportunity and publicity event will feature members of the food bank, as well as VP of Campus Services Scott Wright, Associate VP of Student Life Ixchel Rosal, former GS Dean Peter Awn, and a host of members of the Food Bank board. Bwog sat down with one of The Food Bank’s co-founders, Ramond Curtis, to once again overview the state of food insecurity on campus.

Today’s ribbon cutting ceremony represents a major advancement for The Food Bank at Columbia, which will replace by-appointment disbursements with weekly open hours at a stable location. Their new location was previously a storage closet, but has been converted with the help of Lerner Hall and Campus Services into a proper food bank. Ramond Curtis said that all they asked from Columbia was “four walls and a door,” as they previously had no permanent location. A regular disbursement place and time (1-4 pm on Wednesdays), Curtis believes, will provide an opportunity for all students while clearing up logistical issues.

The new logistical simplicity contrasts with several food insecurity initiatives over the past two years. Swipes, an app which matched swipe-givers with swipe-receivers at campus dining halls, depended on a mobile infrastructure which stopped receiving support soon after its Columbia launch. And the Emergency Meal Fund asked students to receive one-time meal vouchers from the dining offices at JJ’s place and then present them to the dining halls for a maximum of only six meals per semester. Curtis compared the food bank, a concept which has existed successfully, to a wheel. Attempts to find alternative ways of meal disbursement (Swipes, EMF) were unnecessary if a food bank could be pursued instead. In addition, The Food Bank at Columbia can call upon infrastructure and resources of other food banks such as Feeding America and the Food Bank for New York City. Most importantly, The Food Bank could receive long-term support, while previous initiatives relied on constant and individual student support.

While The Food Bank aims to lower costs by cutting waste with personalized disbursements and by ordering in bulk from the cheapest national distributors, it still has a ways to go in its fundraising efforts. The Food Bank has so far been supported primarily by GSSC and by SGB. The narrative that GS students are most in need of food insecurity resources contributed to GSSC’s involvement in the Food Bank, and was corroborated in part by usage data from the Emergency Meal Fund. But Higgins insists that when it comes to the low number of CC, SEAS, and Barnard students using the EMF, “A lack of data is not data.” That CC students are not affected by hunger is only one of many conclusions that could be drawn from the limited EMF usage data.

The Food Bank aims to collect better data on food insecurity, and has already gathered some from its soft opening during the first month of the semester. While full details may be used at student council meetings to convince student leaders to support The Food Bank, Curtis explained that GS has not been the most represented school in disbursements. Over half of disbursements have gone to students in the SEAS grad school.

New data may reveal that certain schools are more or less affected by hunger, but Curtis believes that all student leaders have to step up to support The Food Bank. Just as student councils don’t ask for school demographics on depression and suicide before acting on mental health, Curtis says they ought to realize that all members of a community affected by hunger face the repercussions and have a duty to fight the problem. (CCSC last year initially declined to commit to a partnership with The Food Bank in November, but unanimously supported some sort of funding arrangement with the organization in February.)

After the ribbon cutting, The Food Bank at Columbia will hold open hours on Friday, October 6th. Afterwards, open hours will occur every Wenesday from 1-4 pm. Students interested in helping The Food Bank should reach out to thefoodbank@columbia.edu, and anyone interested in the group’s events or drives should like their Facebook page.

Ready for its close-up via The Food Bank at Columbia

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