EDITORIAL: Pushing for ‘sanctuary’ food pantries
Our political climate might make those in poverty feel unsafe
Rutgers students often forget that New Brunswick is not only comprised of the University, it is a city in itself, with a population of people who have no connection to the University at all. And within this population, almost 35 percent of New Brunswick is living in poverty.
The Christ Church Food Pantry is a place in New Brunswick where residents who are living in this poverty can come to ensure that their families do not go hungry. And while the pantry served an average of 189 families in the previous year, it has seen a decline in 2017. The number of families coming into the pantry hit a record low of 125 this March, and with the poverty line remaining the same, it seems as though another problem is at play.
The food pantry coordinator, Judith Kuldinow, is crediting the decline in the number of families coming to the food pantry to the current political climate in the United States. With an estimate of more than half of the families being immigrants, Kuldinow feels as though the rhetoric that President Donald J. Trump is pushing is one that is instilling fear into these families’ minds. And Kuldinow might have a valid point.
Part of the policies that surround food pantries includes those who want to access supplies to “provide a photo I.D., a proof of address and birth certificates for families who say they have multiple children.” The reason for this is to ensure that those who receive the benefits of the food pantry are the ones who are actually in need of them and that people are not lying about the number of children they have in order to get extra free food. This is to make sure that everyone who needs food is able to access it and that food is not taken away from those in need just because of the deceit of someone else. But the call for the use of I.D.’s can be intimidating to some.
Earlier in his presidency, Trump drafted up an executive order that focused on “ensuring that our immigration laws are enforced.” This included an emphasis on the public benefits that immigrants could receive. Although Trump has yet to sign the order, the conversation it brings up is one that scrutinizes immigrants. The focus on what immigrants can and cannot receive creates the sentiment that they are taking advantage of benefits they should not be receiving, rather than creating the atmosphere that they are welcome. This affects not only those who may be undocumented immigrants, but also those who are documented.
It is a tragedy that people in this nation and in this city are afraid of accessing food that they and their families need in order to survive because of fear the government instilled in them. But what is even more tragic is how it seems as though these systematic oppressions are difficult to fix with just a program or organization. With an administration that is adamant in constantly pushing an agendum that focuses primarily on eliminating undocumented immigrants from the country, it seems as though there is not much that individuals can do to help. How does one help those in need when the system is built in a way that keeps them down?
While it may be difficult to help the entire nation, Rutgers can at least help those around them in the New Brunswick community. One crucial resource can be meal swipes that students purchase. Rather than wasting extra meal swipes that will never be used or rolled over, perhaps students can donate them to families in need. While this may require a similar system of organization to the food pantry, perhaps the idea that people do want to help will show those who are afraid of the administration's rhetoric that there are people who truly want to help. And by students helping the lives of the people they often forget live right next door, perhaps the University can start a rhetoric of acceptance and generosity that will trickle into the rest of the nation.