Seeking to address the issue of food insecurity on campus, the Student Assembly voted Thursday to provide $320,000 towards Anabel’s Grocery, a proposed student-run grocery store. While working towards the eradication of food insecurity is a noble goal, we are concerned that those behind the S.A.-supported project do not comprehensively address the issue at hand. Investing hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Students Helping Students Fund without research indicating that the store will find success on campus would be a risky decision for the Cornell community.
The justification for Anabel’s Grocery is primarily the result of findings from the 2015 Perceptions of Undergraduate Life and Student Experiences Survey, in which approximately 20 percent of respondents expressed that they had skipped meals either “very often,” “often” or “occasionally” due to financial constraints. While this provides a stark portrait of the high costs of food on Cornell’s campus and in Collegetown, the PULSE survey provided only this much. The survey was not designed to research how a on campus grocery store would help those in need, but rather Cornell’s overall campus culture . Without further research on whether the store would be utilized by students and, more importantly, those students who are food insecure, one question remains: Is Anabel’s Grocery currently the best solution towards addressing this problem?
There is no question that any amount of food insecurity on campus must be addressed by the greater Cornell community. Facing inaction from the administration, students took this issue into their own hands, prompting the development of Anabel’s Grocery, to be housed in a renovated basement in Anabel Taylor Hall. While the student-run grocery does make progress in bringing the issue of food insecurity to the forefront of conversation on campus, we are uncertain of the extent to which the store will adequately address the needs of food insecure students on campus.
While Anabel’s Grocery would be closer to many students than Wegmans or other competitors and could potentially provide a number of benefits to the Cornell community, the current business plan lacks any evidence as to the potential success rate of the store. Without an estimate of the number of students expected to utilize the space, the use of hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Students Helping Student Fund — which was created with the purpose of assisting “registered Cornell undergraduate students with emergency funding and funding for summer internship expenses that they otherwise could not afford” — is fiscally irresponsible.
The proposal put forth by members of Anabel’s Grocery is a compelling strategy to address the issue of food insecurity on campus and one of the first of its kind. According to the business plan for the store, “a more holistic approach to address food insecurity [at Cornell] is needed.” There is no doubt that the plan at question is the best plan put forward thus far. What remains unclear is whether this is the best plan for Cornellians and those who identify as food insecure.