Food insecurity continues to be a growing issue on college campuses everywhere. Students suffering from this problem at UConn Stamford will soon begin to see some relief due to a generous gift from the Stamford Partnership on behalf of the City of Stamford.
The Stamford Partnership, the primary economic and community development non-profit organization in the region, facilitated the gift of $10,000 to the UConn Foundation from Stamford’s Mayoral Humanitarian Community Fund to establish the UConn Stamford Food Insecurity Fund.
The fund will be used to support students at UConn Stamford who are facing urgent, unanticipated financial shortfalls that undermine their ability to cover their costs for adequate and nutritious food on a daily basis. A priority use of the fund will include providing resources to meet students’ needs following unforeseen circumstances, such as a death in the family, loss of employment, an illness, or other emergency.
“Food insecurity is a serious issue that does not get enough attention,” says Terrence Cheng, the Director of UConn Stamford. “This is certainly the case at UConn Stamford. We are so thankful to the Stamford Partnership for their generous support. It’s going to impact so many students in a positive way and help them to achieve their personal and academic goals.”
The gift was initiated when Stamford Partnership chairperson Jodi Gutierrez of George Comfort & Sons, and its CEO Jon Winkel, received an email from Cheng during the recent UConn Gives campaign about the needs of UConn Stamford, which included food insecurity.
“I follow what is going at UConn Stamford very closely because it is so important to our region,” says Winkel. “They have been great partners with us in our annual Stamford Innovation Week. We have a COVID-19 community relief fund, and we jumped into action when we saw that food insecurity was a serous need. We worked with the Office of the Stamford Mayor and the UConn Foundation to create a Stamford-specific relief fund, and it was a no-brainer to fund it for $10,000.”
UConn Stamford does have residence halls where some students live, but does not have dining halls. A large number of UConn Stamford students also live at home.
“In the elementary and high school domain, there are reduced-cost and free meal options for students, but that does not happen when you go to college,” says Cody Bergeron, a clinical case manager at UConn Stamford’s Mental Health Resource Center. “Students may have been dealing with food insecurity issues for a long time, but we aren’t aware of it.”
Some college students do receive financial aid and take out loans, but that often does not include funds for purchasing food.
“Food insecurities in college affect multiple areas,” says Katlyn Griffin, also a clinical case manager at the Mental Health Resource Center. “There is the overall stress it causes, and imagine how hard it is to be really hungry and sit through classes all day. Your ability to concentrate is diminished, and you are worrying about where your next meal will come from.”
Bergeron and Griffin also say the fund will help provide more nutritious food to students experiencing food insecurity, as opposed to cheaper fast food options that are often a choice of those struggling.
“Last year at the beginning of the pandemic, we recognized that this health crisis would impact many families and individuals in our community,” says Stamford mayor David Martin. “I also knew some of our corporate partners wanted to do what they could to help residents of the city. This is why we created a COVID Humanitarian Relief Fund, which has assisted hundreds in our community. The COVID Relief Fund ensures that our most vulnerable and those in need can find help. Now we are able assist to address the urgent and critical need of some UConn students. The collaborative effort created with Gartner Group, Synchrony, WWE and the Stamford Partnership, we are in a position to provide much needed help to those who need it most.”
The gift provides the Stamford Partnership a chance to help enhance the lives of students at UConn Stamford.
“UConn’s presence in Stamford underpins a huge portion of the economic development strategy for both Stamford and the surrounding region,” says Winkel. “One of the things we hear from employers all the time during our community roundtables is the need for talent, and UConn Stamford provides that. They host numerous events in their GenRe Auditorium and all the professors are very accessible and friendly in attending and speaking at city events. I can’t say enough positive things about UConn Stamford’s role in the city.”