Hungry students don’t enter the on-campus food pantry at New York’s LaGuardia Community College; instead they sit in an office in the college’s financial services center while a staff member or volunteer runs upstairs to get their food, bringing them unmarked grocery bags to take home.
Little more than an unlabeled office, containing a series of unmarked file cabinets, the pantry goes undetected to most – and that’s the point.
Dr. Michael Baston, the college’s vice president of Student Affairs, says the whole process is designed to be invisible.
“We did this because we feel like it is a stigma reducing strategy,” he said. “Because we want students to feel like whatever the resource they need to sustain themselves, that would be available to them.”
Battling stigma is a challenge for food pantries of all stripes, but the struggle appears to be especially pronounced on college campuses. After all, universities are supposed to be islands of relative privilege. If you can afford to spend thousands of dollars a year on a college education, the thinking goes, you can’t possibly be hungry enough to require emergency food assistance.