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Stony Brook University Sets Up Food Pantry For Needy Students

STONY BROOK, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- Some students are skipping meals and losing nutrition at Stony Brook University, and the concern has reached the point where the school has launched a campus effort to curb hunger.

As CBS 2's Carolyn Gusoff reported, the Long Island university has set up a free food pantry for hungry students. It opened with $5,000 in donated food for students who say they skip meals – unable to balance the cost of an education with food.

Jake Cohen is putting himself through college.

"I have to have a small dinner, because I can't afford to have a larger dinner, so I'm eating less," said Cohen, a freshman at the university.

Student hunger is a serious matter, food pantry organizers said.

"They may desire to have more protein, but they can't afford more protein, so we have students who kind of joke around about, 'Oh, it's going to be Ramen noodle week this week,'" said Stony Brook University Food Pantry co-founder Beth McGuire.

The cost of a meal plan is almost $2,000 per semester – a stretch for one third of Stony Brook students who come from low-income homes, but are not eligible for food stamps. And financial aid only covers tuition.

The pantry is modeled after other universities – there are 60 of them nationwide.

"There are 17 million children in America who are food insecure, so when they turn 18, they don't all of a sudden not become food insecure," said food pantry co-founder Casey McGloin. "And if they're going to college, they need to find some way to fill that need."

The Stony Brook pantry is filled with nutritious meals that students can make in the dorms. It will be run by student volunteers, including Ruby Escalera-Nater.

"There's days where they don't have food, or their friend is helping them buy food for them a certain the day," she said. "I've been there. My friends have been there."

The pantry is tucked away down some stairs in a dorm basement. The hope is that there will be no stigma attached to taking free food.

Students only need to show a university ID.

Organizers said they rely on the honor system, and hope only needy students will use the pantry. It will also be open to university faculty and staff.

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