How is Cornell addressing food insecurity?

Date: November 2022



Food insecurity is national problem that affects many in this country. It is unfortunate that resource-constrained graduate students must contend with the inability to secure enough food for themselves and their families.

The university devotes many resources to alleviating food insecurity among graduate students, motivated by deteriorating economic conditions. Yet concerns of food insecurity among graduate students persist despite these efforts and policies. In light of this, Cornell Dining’s new program [Swipe Out Hunger, referenced in Announcements on November 7], which facilitates food donations between students, seems like a misguided new initiative to address the rising food insecurity.

Every graduate student here finds their income constrained by recent economic conditions. I hope that the Cornell administration will pursue other policies to help solve student food insecurity. Hopefully these other policies will not rely on income-constrained students donating to our food-insecure colleagues. Thank you.

Kind regards,
Concerned About Food Insecurity Among Graduate Students


Dear Concerned About Food Insecurity Among Graduate Students,

Thank you so much for writing. I understand that finances are very difficult for many of our students. Cornell is deeply concerned for the welfare of all of our students, and in my role especially, I am hearing very sobering stories about food insecurity. There is a need to share information that can help prevent hunger in our community.

As you point out, food insecurity is an ongoing problem in this country. Here on campus, the university has put several policies and programs in place to address food insecurity among the student body, including Swipe Out Hunger. This is a national program that Cornell Dining with the Dean of Students joined in 2019 to allow students on a meal plan to donate one bonus meal per semester to a central bank that can then be distributed to fellow students in need. Students have expressed the desire to help support their fellow students who are experiencing food insecurity, and Swipe Out Hunger provides an immediate means to help. Many bonus meal credits are not used by our students, so the program provides a way to ensure that those meals are used productively, in support of other students in need. 

The program is administered by the Office of the Dean of Students through the Office of First-Generation and Low-Income Student Support. Students experiencing food insecurity during the academic year should complete the Bonus Meal Distribution Form. Many graduate and professional students have participated in this program since it was launched in 2019, so we took the step of promoting it in Announcements to make sure others in need were aware of the resource. 

In addition to several programs dedicated to food security (for example, the Cornell Food Pantry and the student-run nonprofit grocery story Anabel’s Grocery, Cornell also established an access fund that provides assistance to help cover some costs associated with emergency expenses and basic needs (i.e. winter coat and boots, professional attire, dental costs, or eye care expenses).

The Graduate School provides information on Swipe Out Hunger, the access fund, and other resources to all students to make sure they are aware of resources available to them.

I am happy to meet with you to discuss this further if you would like. 



Janna Lamey
Senior Assistant Dean for Graduate Student Life