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Division of Student Affairs
New Brunswick

No Hungry Knights Scholarship Ensures that Students Get the Food They Need 

Students eat at Busch Dining Hall during New Student Orientation
Students eat at Busch Dining Hall during New Student Orientation
Jack Ouligian

At Rutgers—New Brunswick, like other universities across the nation, many students suffer from food insecurity. To begin addressing this issue, the Dean of Students—Off-Campus Living and Community Partnerships, a department within the Division of Student Affairs, offers a Student Food Pantry that students can use when necessary, as well as the No Hungry Knights Scholarship, which offers free meal swipes for on-campus dining halls. 

“In fall 2019, we started having conversations with donors about setting up a meal plan initiative,” said Kerri Willson, the associate dean of students and director of off-campus living and initiatives. “The pandemic and the university shutdown delayed everything, of course, and we ended up fully launching the program in the spring of 2022. 

“This program is designed to help address the basic needs of our students,” Willson said. “For some students, a meal pantry is exactly what they need. But, for others, meal swipes are more convenient due to their personal situations.” 

After applying in the spring semester and receiving the scholarship, students are awarded 75 meal swipes in the fall and spring semesters. Students who did not receive the scholarship can also obtain meal swipes on a more limited basis (such as for one or two weeks). 

For his part, Philip Smith, assistant dean of student basic needs, agreed with Willson about the convenience of meal swipes as opposed to other forms of assistance. 

“A meal swipe gets you a hot meal,” Smith said. “A lot of student schedules are tight, and they need to get a meal right away. Or they want to join their friends, or they might not have access to a kitchen at home. 

“With this program, these students can get a nutritious meal, but, more than that, they can be present and part of the campus community,” Smith continued. “They don't have to worry about whether or not they can afford it; they can just participate.” 

Though the program was partially implemented in the 2021-2022 academic year, it was expanded in the 2022-2023 year, with 60 students receiving assistance. In the upcoming school year, 100 students will participate in the program, receiving 15,000 meal swipes in total over the fall and spring semesters. 

Robert (RC’69) and Harriet Druskin, who have been donors to Rutgers for decades, have played a big role in funding the scholarship, along with other key donors. 

“This work is incredibly important,” said Harriet Druskin. “If you’re hungry all the time, you can’t think, you can’t study, and it’s not good. With that in mind, it’s important for someone who is in need to be able to say, ‘I need help’ and to get the help that they need, all without doing something that would draw attention to themselves.” 

Moving forward, the Dean of Students—Off-Campus Living and Community Partnerships hopes to expand the number of meal swipes that they can offer students, and, with the help of donors, is planning to buy a van to help students with grocery-store visits. 

Whatever steps come next, a focus on meeting student needs will remain central for this office. 

“No Hungry Knights is just one of many tools in our tool kit to help students be successful,” said Willson. “When students’ basic needs are not met, it is extremely challenging for them to be successful and graduate, and the longer that they are here, the more debt they incur.” 

“So,” she continued, “if we have this resource to help them, students can get their needs met so that they can focus on their education. And there’s nothing better than that.” 

You can donate to the No Hungry Knights Initiative here. Click here to read our previous article on the Rutgers Student Food Pantry. You can click here to get into touch with the Dean of Students—Off-Campus Living and Community Partnerships.