Some N.J. college students struggling with hunger

(PJ_JoE/BigStock)

(PJ_JoE/BigStock)

New Jersey lawmakers are focusing on hunger among college students.

Rutgers University New Brunswick opened a food pantry in September to support students who don’t have enough money for food, said Carey Wilson, who directs off-campus living there.

“We have students who are disconnected from families and therefore lacking the support they need when times are tough,” she said. “We have returning adult students who are coming back to school after a layoff and have to support their family. We have students who are choosing between paying for textbooks and paying for food.”

Ellen Daley, a nutritionist at Rutgers Newark, said a food pantry opened there in January.

“Our surveys show that about 60 percent of our students experience food insecurity, and 25 percent had skipped a meal because they don’t have enough money,” Daley said.

Another college official said some students make a practice of scanning social media sites to find public programs and events where food is available.

Some students are not receiving enough financial aid, said Karen Pennington, vice president for student development at Montclair State University, during a Monday hearing before legislators.

“Many of them are just doing the best they can to survive and get their books and get the things that they need, but they often will do that at the expense of eating,” Pennington said. “Not having food means that you can’t study, you can’t be productive, you can’t do the things you need to do to be a good student.”

Senate Education Committee chairwoman Sandra Cunningham questioned whether the state has enough revenue to increase student financial aid.

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