College food pantry named ‘SUNY Cortland Cupboard”

Rachel Ditch, interim Protestant campus minister at the Interfaith Center, stands in the newly opened SUNY Cortland Cupboard (Peter Blanchard/Cortland Voice)

The following is a press release from SUNY Cortland. It has been re-published with permission.

When most people get hungry, they simply open their kitchen cupboard to find what they need. That common and routine act is captured in the new official name for a donation-supported resource for financially struggling college students that opened Nov. 6: the SUNY Cortland Cupboard.

Located in the basement of the Interfaith Center at 7 Calvert St., on the corner opposite Dowd Performing Arts Center, the cupboard will be open weekdays from noon to 1 p.m. for the rest of the semester.

The SUNY Cortland Cupboard is filled with shelves of non-perishable food items and essentials like can openers and personal care products that students living off-campus often cannot afford.

Although the volunteer ad-hoc committee behind the cupboard initially planned it to be a food pantry, they quickly expanded the scope of its mission to accept — and to provide to cash-strapped students free of charge — donations of personal items like soap and toothpaste.

The service is open to SUNY Cortland students in need. Over the last few years, similar resources have opened on campuses throughout the country, including at least six SUNY institutions, in recognition of widespread food insecurity among college students.

Volunteer organizers are accepting donations from the community to stock the cupboard. In about six months, they expect to have met the requirements to qualify for support from the Food Bank of Central New York.

Those who would like to make a contribution to the SUNY Cortland Cupboard can do so through the Cortland College Foundation via mail at P.O. Box 2000, Cortland, NY 13045 or telephone at 607-753-5744 or online at RedDragonNetwork.org/giving.

Running the pantry also creates a continuing need for more civic-minded citizens to help out. To volunteer, contact John Suarez, who directs the College’s Institute for Civic Engagement, at 607-753-4391.

Additionally, Suarez is recruiting a junior or senior as an ICE intern to manage the cupboard for the spring semester. The intern, preferably an economics and or sociology major, must take the internship for credit. The individual will track the cupboard’s inventory, ensuring that the Cupboard is stocked, organized, and accommodating for guests; follow up on guest suggestions; provide weekly updates to a SUNY Cortland Cupboard Board of Directors; train volunteers; and collaborate with other ICE interns on the operation.

Out of 301 SUNY Cortland students who responded to a recent College survey, a majority of whom lived off campus, more than one-third replied that they had gone to bed hungry while attending college because of lack of finances.

The College’s Health Promotions Office representatives worked closely with the College Health Department, to study the problem of hunger at Cortland. A one-week survey was conducted during October to gather information on the students. Of the 301 respondents, 66.9 percent lived off campus. Almost 30 percent of those said their whole semester tuition bill was covered by financial aid. Just a few more than 10 percent said they have used a soup kitchen or food pantry before.

In addition to Health Promotions and the Health Department, staff in the College’s Institute for Civic Engagement, SUNY Cortland Alumni Association, and the Cortland College Foundation participated in the development of the SUNY Cortland Cupboard.

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