Husky Market, an initiative at the University of Connecticut that provided students experiencing food insecurity with a $300 grocery store gift card, is being cut due to Connecticut state policy changes, according to reporting from The Daily Campus.
The program was created in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic as a collaborative effort between the now-defunct UConn Praxis and the Undergraduate Student Government. At the time, Connecticut state financial policy allowed for USG to provide gift cards to students to offset grocery costs. However, the policy has since been rolled back, taking Husky Market’s closure out of USG’s hands. Without the policy that originally allowed them, providing gift cards had the potential to negatively impact a student’s eligibility for financial aid.
The Daily Campus Editorial Board has previously highlighted the concern that comes along with the need for Husky Market and similar programs. Of course, any initiative meant to alleviate the pressures of food insecurity at UConn is worth having. However, there is still a need to question why there is food insecurity on UConn’s campuses and what more could be done to combat the issue.
The cheapest meal plan at UConn’s Storrs campus is $3,013 per semester, which is a significant sum that students living on campus in dorm or suite-style housing are required to spend in addition to their housing. On-campus housing itself is also pricey, with the cheapest dorm rate going for $3,820 per semester. To spend a minimum of $6,833 to live on campus and eat in the dining halls for a singular semester is a tall ask for most college students.
With such a financial burden, it makes sense that students might choose to live off campus. However, students doing so are not required to purchase a meal plan and must rely on other means to find meals. Realistically, if an off-campus student applied for and was eligible for Husky Market, the solution to their food insecurity would be to not purchase an expensive meal plan. Inherently, the ending of Husky Market removes a food resource from students who may not have had many other options.
Additionally, UConn’s dining halls have a massive amount of food waste to reckon with. In 2021, it was reported by The Daily Campus that employees of Union Street Market in the Student Union are instructed to throw away excess food at the end of the day and are not allowed to take any extra food home. While Dining Services has food waste initiatives meant to curb food waste at the university, the disparity between wasted food and students facing food insecurity is drastic.
Despite the closure of Husky Market, it is still important to note the other efforts left to combat food insecurity. Husky Harvest, a food pantry located in the Charter Oak Apartments Community Center on the Storrs campus, is a more recent initiative. Open on Mondays and Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., anyone with a UConn ID can swipe in and utilize the pantry as a source of nonperishable food items, as well as some options for produce and toiletries. There are also local pantries and a swipe-donation program that students can use through the Dean of Students Office.
Ultimately, Husky Market is not an insignificant loss in regards to combating food insecurity at UConn. University administrators must take a closer look at how their policies contribute to food insecurity and, therefore, impact students’ ability to learn while in college. Husky Market’s closure proves to students that they must pressure their administrators to provide more. It goes without saying that all students at UConn deserve to be sufficiently fed, and the loss of Husky Market is yet another step in the wrong direction against this human right.