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Campus Food Shelf Meeting Student Needs

Michele Carpentier food shelf

As state campuses across New York move to offer “stigma-free” food access at the direction of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, SUNY Plattsburgh’s food pantry continues to support students in need.

Started about four years ago, the college’s pantry developed as a response to some students’ increasing financial challenges, particularly those living off campus.

“Those students are trying but end up not being able to afford groceries,” said Dr. Michele Carpentier, director of special programs and assistant vice president for student affairs. “We’re facing the same kind of situation as any small town faces. People just can’t afford food.”

Under Gov. Cuomo’s “No Student Goes Hungry” program, SUNY and CUNY campuses are to provide food pantries to their students by the end of fall semester 2018.

The SUNY Plattsburgh food shelf makes both grocery and personal-care items available to its students who struggle to make ends meet.

The demand is strong.

“The shelves were depleted within the first 10 days of this semester,” she said.

Students who live in the residence halls are required to have a meal plan, and many of them select the least expensive in order to save money, Carpentier said.

New Macomb Hall Location

The original “food shelf” was just that — a metal shelf housed in an alcove in Student Support Services when those offices were in the Angell College Center. Canned goods, ramen and mac and cheese were staples on the shelves or in boxes on the floor.

Now in new office space in the renovated Macomb Hall next to the Educational Opportunity Program, Student Support Services has created a space more than double in size from the previous area. Shelves are stocked and neatly arranged by categories of food and basic household supplies. A metal cabinet contains personal-care products like sanitary pads, deodorant, shampoo, toothbrushes and toothpaste.

“For some students, they have to decide if they’ll eat this week or brush their teeth,” Carpentier said. “We have a lot of students who have no support besides what they get here on campus. It’s overwhelming. They try so hard; they work so hard.”

Supported through Donations

There are no eligibility requirements for students to use the pantry, which is supported through donations of food and cash from individuals and organizations like the Plattsburgh chapter of United University Professions, Chartwells, University Police and, the Church of the Nazarene and Unitarian Universalist Fellowship.

And just as the need is great for students, the need for supplies and donations is as well.

“We’re always in need of pasta and pasta sauces, canned fruits and vegetables, cereals, oatmeal, peanut butter,” she said. “We don’t have refrigeration, so the food has to be non-perishable and easily prepared.”

One thing they have enough of? “Ramen. We have plenty of ramen.”

Donations are welcome and can be delivered to the Student Support Services offices in Macomb Hall. For more information, contact Student Support Services, 518-564-2810.

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