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Cardinal Cupboard Food Pantry Expands to Address Food Insecurity

kristina Maguire cardinal cupboard

SUNY Plattsburgh is continuing to make strides in eliminating food insecurity for its students with a new and improved pantry, the Cardinal Cupboard, located in the back corner of Burghy’s Den in the Angell College Center.

The cupboard, along with office space for its coordinator, Kristina Maguire, is the former home of the student-run radio station, WQKE. While the station has been on pause, the food pantry is ever-growing to match the needs of our student population.

“The Cardinal Cupboard is for off-campus students who are in basic need of getting food to tide them over,” said Maguire, who joined the campus community in June as its student outreach and support coordinator. Cardinal Cupboard operated not as a student grocery store but rather as an emergency — or supplemental — source of food, she said.

Open to off-campus students during the academic year and all students during extended breaks and summers, the cupboard offers an array of foodstuffs that students can have to stretch their food budget. While there’s no limit on the number of times a student can make use of the cupboard for emergent or supplemental purposes, Maguire reserves the right to impose limits “if I notice students are using it like a grocery store. That triggers a conversation,” she said. “I ask if they’ve looked into resources in the community such as the Interfaith Food Shelf.”

Evolution of Pantry

The cupboard has evolved over the years, from a couple shelves in a closet of Student Support Services when it was in its prior location in the ACC, to a larger alcove in Macomb Hall when the program moved to those new quarters, and then back to a small room in the ACC in space now occupied by Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

“This space is perfect,” Maguire said. “It’s spacious enough for our food and personal-care items while offering a level of confidentiality. There is still a stigma attached to food insecurity, and being back here, in the corner, gives that extra sense of privacy.”

cardinal cupboard signTo access the Cardinal Cupboard, eligible students visit https://www.plattsburgh.edu/plattslife/student-support/making-ends-meet.html where they’ll find a food shelf order form. Maguire takes the form and fills requests according to availability and then notifies students that their orders are ready for pickup Monday through Friday between 1 and 4 p.m.

While SUNY Plattsburgh has been ahead of the fight to end student food insecurity, in 2018, former Gov. Andrew Cuomo created the “No Student Goes Hungry” program where SUNY and CUNY campuses were charged with providing food pantries for their students. Now, all 64 SUNY campuses offer some form of pantry. In June of this year, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced state funding to address student housing and food insecurity.

State Funding

As a result, SUNY Plattsburgh was allocated $38,700 from SUNY in new, ongoing funding for food insecurity support.

“This money will go toward stocking the cupboard and investing in a software system that will offer even more anonymity so names aren’t disclosed,” Maguire said. The software will allow students to actually see what’s available from photos of what’s on the shelves, Maguire said.

Students also have available to them refrigerated and frozen foods, and Maguire hopes to be able to get a second refrigerator in order to supply more fresh produce, something students are hungry for, she said.

“I’ve partnered with the regional food bank, putting in orders and picking up at the Oval,” she said. “They send what’s available. The students request fresh produce. They need it; it’s a staple. I’m truly excited about that. A second refrigerator would go a long way to seeing that happen.”

Donations Welcome

Maguire said that even though the cupboard has started receiving the SUNY funding, donations are still welcome.

“It’s so nice to see the support from faculty, staff and community members,” Maguire said. “I came in this morning to find a box of food that had been left by the cupboard door. I don’t know who left it, but it’s nice to find.”

Maguire said that anyone looking for a list of items most needed and requested by students can find it at https://www.plattsburgh.edu/plattslife/student-support/making-ends-meet.html. In addition to food, students can use personal-care items as well, such as toothbrushes and toothpaste, laundry detergent, hygiene items, toilet paper and cleaning items.

According to Maguire, ramen noodles continue to be one of the most popular items in the cupboard among students. Other items include:

  • Corn, tomato paste, potatoes, mixed vegetables and carrots are the top canned vegetables
  • Ketchup, marinara and alfredo sauce
  • Laundry detergent, toilet paper and soap most requested toiletries and self-care items
  • Vegetarian items are the most requested dietary need
  • Peanut butter, tuna fish, Spam and chickpeas are the top requested proteins

Between May 1 and July 31, after most students had gone home, the Cardinal Cupboard filled 193 orders, averaging 30 students per month, she said.

For on-campus students who are not eligible for the Cardinal Cupboard but who face their own challenges — many choose the least expensive meal plans in order to afford college — Maguire said she’s available to help in other ways.

SNAP Benefits

“I’m also here for these students to help get their basic needs met as well,” she said. As she does for off-campus students, Maguire can help coordinate access to area resources like food shelves and a new university initiative that helps eligible on- or off-campus students get connected to the New York State Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.

This program can help income-eligible students buy:

  • Breads and cereals
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Meat, fish and poultry
  • Dairy products

Students interested in a free and confidential prescreening or help applying for SNAP benefits can reach out to the Clinton County Nutrition Outreach and Education Program Coordinator, Mandy Beaudin, at The Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York, 518-563-4022 Ext. 112.

They can also apply directly at Clinton County Department of Social Services, 13 Durkee St., Plattsburgh, 518-565-3330 or online at www.mybenefits.ny.gov.

For more information on Cardinal Cupboard, contact Maguire at 518-564-3811 or email [email protected].

— Story, Photos by Associate Director of Communications Gerianne Downs

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