Rider receives grant to combat student food insecurity on campus

Rider University on Thursday said it was the recipient of a more than $18,000 grant from the state Office of the Secretary of Higher Education to combat hunger on campus. The funding will address issues of food insecurity, a barrier to learning that has intensified as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The monies are to be used through June to help offset expenses associated with operating the Rider Food and Resource Pantry. The grant will also make available meal swipes for students in need, create awareness of the availability of the food pantry as a resource and bring attention to the issue of hunger on campus.

“Every student deserves to be able to focus on their studies and not have to feel stressed about affording or finding food,” Leanna Fenneberg, vice president for student affairs, said. “This grant will help us sustain a number of initiatives that have made a difference for our students.”

Rider has been engaged in the effort to address student food insecurity for several years. In 2018, the university formed the Campus Hunger Task Force and Resource Pantry Advisory Board, which meets regularly to discuss issues related to student food insecurity, access, optimizing communication with students and broader hunger education initiatives.

The number of students using the campus food pantry as a resource has been rising over the last five years. Last semester, 174 students visited the pantry, a steady increase from 43 students when the pantry first opened in spring 2018.

The pantry is open every weekday and one evening, giving students access to food, toiletries, school supplies, select clothing and a microwave and mini refrigerator lending program. Throughout the year, the pantry also features special items such as winter outerwear, residence hall essentials including desk lamps and storage containers, and reusable items like cutlery, plates, bowls and water bottles to promote sustainable practices.