Figuring out Food Needs
With summer and our growing season behind us, we are returning all of our attention from our community garden, to our healthy eating and active living audits.
With the help of Kelsey Bent, MPH, CHES, graduate from our Public Health graduate program we have been able to collect and identify data from the varied authorities on food access and security, in order to build a comprehensive resource that depicts the combined sum of knowledge of student food security within the state of New Jersey. Data from the U.S. Census, USDA Food Environment Atlas, Feeding America’s Mapping the Meal Gap program, and the New Jersey Department of Education. A preliminary review during the Spring of 2020 suggested a nearly 10% rise in free lunches provided by K-12 schools since 2000, with some counties now exceeding one half of all enrolled students receiving a free lunch during the 2019 Academic Year, as reported by the New Jersey Department of Education.
As the second largest public university in the state, it is important for us to be able to anticipate the needs of our incoming student body, and we will be presenting this information to our Campus Hunger Task Force, created at the beginning of the year in response to identified emergent student food needs.
As our students return to campus, we are continuing to monitor student food security. With the help of Sam Thomson, current Anthropology undergraduate, we will be setting up remote interviews to better understand student food needs during the course of the pandemic, and to help identify necessary supporting services for our student body. He will also be helping us to continue to collect and analyze our secondary and survey data, to improve our understanding of student food needs and the traffic concerns of campus. With his help, we are also planning on revisiting parts of our active living audit of the campus during the Fall, as we are hoping that this semester will be much more representative of a typical year than the spring, which saw an uncharacteristically small amount of traffic.
About the Grantee
The team at Montclair State is based out of the Division of University Facilities and the Campus Community Garden. We're combining efforts on this grant project to improve food security and pedestrian safety on campus. Our core team consists of Adeline Cochran, Sustainability Coordinator and Chris Snyder, MPH, Garden Founder/Coordinator.