By Christopher Leelum and Randall Waszynski
For about two hours last Wednesday, Stony Brook students had the chance to stroll through a fresh meadow of marshmallow-covered apples, hydroponically-grown veggies, and even a kleptomaniacal, pie-stealing Wolfie. Well, sort of.
Encouraging Americans to practice proper dieting and nutrition, Food Day, which is celebrated every Oct. 24, advocates for improved food policies through holding thousands of events across the nation.
“We decided to host an SBU Food Day, where we’re here to educate the campus community about health, wellness and sustainability,” Angela Agnello, the director of marketing and communications for the Faculty Student Association, said at the event.
Diseases like obesity, diabetes and heart disease cost Americans $150 billion each year, according to Food Day, a national day of recognition toward healthier diet created by the Center for Science in the Public Interest. However, roughly 283,700 people on Long Island are recipients of emergency food per year and 64,900 a week, according to the national study Hunger in America 2010.
Children make up the 39 percent of Long Islanders who receive emergency food, according to the study. Requiring the reliance of others to access the feeding programs and services, children lack a voice despite being one of the largest single populations of the hungry. And, according to the study, children who are hungry are more susceptible to cognitive impairments.
“Food insecurity is in every town and every city on Long Island,” Mike Haynes, the Chief Government Affairs Officer for Long Island food bank Long Island Cares Inc., said. “Some just hide it better than others.”
Though Haynes said the situation has stabilized over recent years, the organization, founded by famous Long Islander and artist Harry Chapin, still donates about 8.4 million pounds of food and supplies every year to those in need.
“Everyone knows that it’s very expensive to live on Long Island,” Jesse John, who represented the SBU Food Pantry, an on-campus resource for students who experience a shortage in food income, said at the event. “Food and rent are very expensive. And sometimes people end up in harsh times whether they lose their job or run out of food, so there are a multitude of options that people can use to supplement their food income.”
A goal of Food Day on campus is to encourage college students to live a more sustainable life, David Schmitz, a retail manager at Roth dining area, said. Schmitz goes by “Farmer Dave,” referencing his involvement in the hydroponic farming in Roth Quad on campus called Freight Farms. Practical sustainable methods for college students include using less paper in printing, taking shorter showers, and leaving the lights off as much as possible, Schmitz said.
This issue is not localized to Stony Brook or even Long Island. About 100 college food pantries have opened within the past six years, according to CNN.
“[Food insecurity] is a national problem across many universities and across the country,” John said.