Survey Says More Than a Third of New Jersey Community College Students are Food Insecure


Published February 26, 2020
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The Montclarion
The Red Hawk Pantry supplies students with food and other necessities. Photo courtesy of Mike Peters

This month, The Hope Center released a report on food and home insecurity for New Jersey community college students as part of their annual #RealCollege survey. Of the 9,000 respondents, it was found that 39% experienced food insecurity in the previous 30 days, 44% were housing insecure during the previous year, and 14% were homeless at some point during that year.


This comes as no surprise to Allison Llanos, a freshman fashion major, who sees the pressures put on college students to make ends meet.

“I fully understand the financial burden of college as a student myself,” Llanos said. “Combined with the living expenses in New Jersey, the percentages presented make sense.”

Leslie Gallagher, a freshman communication and media arts major, was surprised by the numbers and was able to receive help with the costs of college.

“Luckily, I do come from a family where my parents are willing to help me and my siblings afford [college],” Gallagher said. “However, it does put a lot of strain on our family and a lot of pressure on me personally to succeed and earn money while I’m in college. I think a lot of other students feel that kind of pressure as well.”

Photo courtesy of Mike Peters

Students who are food insecure can rely on The Red Hawk Pantry for assistance.
Photo courtesy of Mike Peters

Montclair State University has taken action to combat these struggles within its student population. The Red Hawk Pantry, located in Room 170 of the Student Center, serves as a haven for students grappling with financial insecurity.

Sonja Tillman, coordinator for the Red Hawk Pantry, explained the purpose of the pantry.

“The Red Hawk Pantry works to provide food and toiletries for students that are unable to meet their basic needs,” Tillman said.

Additionally, students unable to afford professional attire can acquire clothing for work interviews through “Rocky’s Closet.”

According to Tillman, the pantry aids 30 to 35 Montclair State students per week. However, she believes that many more are struggling but do not seek help.

Sonja Tillman, the coordinator for the Red Hawk Pantry, supports students who are food insecure. Photo courtesy of Montclair State University

Sonja Tillman, the coordinator for the Red Hawk Pantry, supports students who are food insecure.
Photo courtesy of Mike Peters

“I just wish that they did not feel stigmatized or embarrassed by their situation, so they could come to us for help,” Tillman said.

Stacy Albanese, the associate director of Annual Giving and Alumni Engagement at Montclair State, worked to open the pantry while she was earning her master’s degree. She encourages students to do more to support the pantry.

“Donate, whether it’s organizing a food drive or skipping coffee for the day to donate $5, anything helps,” Albanese said. “Also, promote the pantry to other students so that they know it exists. This will help fight the stigma.”

For more information on the Red Hawk Pantry services or how to contribute, visit the Montclair State website.

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