How changing a bus route can change a campus

This blog post comes from Joelle Marx, ’20 at Colgate University. She is a Campus Hunger Project Cohort leader this year, bringing changes and new resources to her campus.

Four years ago, when I first arrived at Colgate University in central New York, I quickly realized that there was only one grocery store. Located about a five minute drive from our campus, it is essential that students either drive or take the Colgate cruiser, our campus bus service, to get there. The cruiser has a number of bus routes that take students from the apartments to the academic hill, to downtown Hamilton and to the grocery store. On the cruiser, a five minute drive to the grocery store from campus often turns into a two-hour round trip adventure. 

I started learning about food insecurity when I joined Colgate’s Challah for Hunger chapter my first semester on campus. I was shocked; Colgate has a stereotype of being a relatively wealthy campus with students flaunting $800 winter jackets and parking lots lined with fancy cars. Seemingly every student has access to a car. In reality, Colgate students are just as hungry as at any other school. Many students do not have access to a car. And because of the school’s reputation for attracting wealthy students, administrators also do not realize the extent of the issue, mostly because no one seems to be paying attention. 

Joining the Campus Hunger Project Cohort has given me the resources and the leverage to ask faculty and administrators to focus on this issue. Once the administrators did acknowledge this issue on our campus, we got to work! Alongside other students and faculty, we listed out immediate remedies for the situation. The first order of business was improving access to the only nearby supermarket– it should not take two hours for students to get food! The second was a meal swipe donation program; for students who cannot afford food from the grocery store, fixing the bus route would not solve their problems. While the meal swipe donation program has been taking lots of time to negotiate between many parties, the bus route was a simple negotiation with the cruiser provider to add another route. With the new route, it will now only take students a total of 45 minutes to go to and from the supermarket — much easier than the old schedule. Within the first month, there were more than 70 passengers utilizing the new routes. Students without access to a car will no longer worry about asking for rides to the store — a burden that many students here face. Changing the bus schedule on my campus was a great first step to supporting students experiencing food insecurity.

This semester, I am building a campaign as a Cohort leader to bring a meal swipe donation program, Swipe Out Hunger, to Colgate. Ideally, students will be able to donate their guest swipes and extra meal swipes to other students who cannot afford a meal plan or to purchase food from our dining halls. While it may be challenging to fit together all the moving parts of this puzzle, I know we are making a positive impact for the students on this campus. Step by step we are making changes: persistence and holding our campus accountable is key! 

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