Throughout her 41 years of teaching at William Paterson, Jean Levitan, professor of public health, always took an interest in her students’ wellbeing. For years she sporadically brought granola bars to class and would stash them in her office to share with students. “A few times they were so hungry, they would ask for two,” she says, noting that many students live on a food plan and sometimes run out of money.
Levitan is retiring this semester and has given a very generous gift to the University’s Pioneer Food Pantry, which helps students who are in need of food and basic necessities. In lieu of a retirement gift, she is requesting that her colleagues and friends support the food pantry by making a donation.
“We are so grateful for the generous donation from Professor Jean Levitan,” says Miki Cammarata, vice president for student development. “Food insecurity is a reality for many of our students and donations like this help us to ensure that it does not become a barrier to their success. This year we have had over 600 visits to the Pioneer Pantry.”
“I’ve always been concerned with students’ hunger,” says Levitan. When William Kernan, chair and professor of public health, did research into food insecurity a few years ago, she was glad to learn that the University was establishing a food pantry, which is now commonplace on many campuses.
Upon her retirement this June, Levitan hopes to work as a volunteer to support the food pantry, whether it’s picking up supplies from the community food bank in Hillside or spending time in the pantry itself.
“I made a donation at the end of last summer, rather than waiting, because I knew that there wasn’t enough money to get through this year,” she says. “The more money they have, the more they can do. I’m trying to also use my retirement party on April 30 as a fundraiser. There’s a link on the invitation if people want to donate to the Pioneer Food Pantry.
“I want students to be able to learn and not be distracted by their basic needs. That’s really the key,” she says.
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