Applications have opened for the new Husky Market program for food insecure students to receive $30-$50 in gift cards in the mail each week for six weeks to various grocery stores. The application will close next Tuesday, October 6 at noon.

The University of Connecticut’s Undergraduate Student Government, in partnership with UConnPIRG, Minority Health Matters and the Nutrition Club, is urging students to apply even if they don’t know whether or not they are considered food insecure.

Food insecurity means that someone has a lack of access to reliable, continuous and nutritious food services and comes in many forms especially on college campuses, said President of Minority Health Matters Kimora Chambers, a fifth-semester women’s, gender, and sexuality studies major.

“A lot of people, number one, they hear ‘food insecurity’ and they think hunger and starvation when it doesn’t necessarily have to look like that,” Chambers said. “Food insecurity can lead to that but it’s not synonymous.”

Minority Health Matters and the Nutrition Club will be working together to compile a list of recipes and a recommended grocery list to accompany the gift cards. She said that her organization works to educate and empower its members to reach out to someone when they need help, and she wants to spread the same message to UConn students through the Husky Market program.

“…through education, comes power, comes action…”

Kimora Chambers

“We believe that through education, comes power, comes action, comes so many other things because you’re able to understand things from a different light, now that you understand the things that are going on around you,” Chambers said. 

Ethan Werstler, a fifth-semester political science and communication major, is the Food Insecurity Coordinator at USG. He said that in order to expand the outreach of the program, the gift cards will be going to the 200 most food insecure students that fill out the application. 

Last semester, over 300 participants showed up to a Husky Market event for undergraduate students where about $1,500 worth of groceries were given out for free. Werstler said that USG worked to create a new and improved model of their plan that also complied with COVID-19 restrictions.  

USG only expected 40-50 students to show up at the Husky Market event on February 21, 2020. Photo: Celina Daigle

“We’re living in a COVID world now, and we can’t be handing out food in person, we can’t be expecting people to come in person, because one, we don’t want to endanger them and two, they may not even be on campus to begin with or near campus if they’re home,” Werstler said. 

With a budget of $60,000 for Husky Market this semester, Werstler said he hopes that the success of the program will be the buy-in for companies like Big Y or Stop & Shop to potentially provide more assistance for the program in the future.

“The future of Husky Market is that we take what we learn from this six week period and we take that to Big Y, we take it to Stop & Shop, and we take it to Price Chopper, and say, ‘Hey, look at these students we helped, that were helped from your gift cards that we purchased from you. We want to put it another $60,000 and we want you to match it,’” he said.

Applications ask detailed questions that will allow a group of students at USG to identify the most food insecure applicants. The form can be filled out here.

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