HUDSON — All state public colleges will have a food pantry or stigma-free food access for students in need by the end of the fall semester, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced.
But it’s something Columbia-Greene Community College has offered for more than a decade.
More than 10 years ago, the Nursing Club began the first student food pantry on the Columbia-Greene Community College campus. In 2011, the Student Life Committee took over direction of the pantry.
The pantry offers non-perishable food items for any student who needs to grab a quick breakfast or lunch.
“The food pantry is open to every Columbia-Greene student so there is no stigma when a student goes in for food that they need,” C-GCC Assistant Director of Accounting Dawn Bucci said. “The food pantry was used so much by students we couldn’t keep up with keeping it stocked.”
The pantry is overseen by the college’s Student Life Committee, but it is managed by Bucci, C-GCC Payroll Clerk Nancy Leonard and College Bursar Christy Ward.
The pantry offers granola and power bars, cups of fruit and cereal and canned goods among other food items. Clubs hold fundraisers for the pantry, but the program also receives outside donations.
The college also hosts a Thanksgiving dinner that is free for students, but for employees to join in they either have to donate their time to running the dinner or donate non-perishable food items to the pantry.
The college complements the food pantry with a food bank, which is for students with a great need for food items.
“Members of the faculty look for students who look like they haven’t eaten in days,” Bucci said. “We provide the students with a box with a couple of days worth of food.”
The items are often non-perishable and microwavable items, although with some advanced notice, the college purchases fresh foods, such as vegetables, with a reserve fund it has for the program.
“Several students in the past have been homeless, living in their cars,” Bucci said. “The food bank probably serves about 10 students a semester. But sometimes the food is not enough and students need another box, but often it is in the time when the student is waiting for their financial aid checks.”
The college is also working with the Hudson Salvation Army at 40 South 3rd St. to offer a mobile food pantry on campus at certain times of the day.
Although the details have not been ironed out, the college and the Salvation Army are discussing having the truck in the upper parking lot of the campus from 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m., and could offer fresh foods that the pantry cannot offer.
“We have a hard time keeping fresh food in the campus pantry because we do not have refrigerators,” Bucci said. “We are hoping to start the mobile food pantry this fall. It will start just to gauge students’ interest in it and what foods they want.”
As classes get underway, nearly 90 percent of SUNY and CUNY campuses offer these types of services as part of the governor’s No Student Goes Hungry program.
New York will be the first state in the country to have such an initiative, Cuomo said.
“Hunger should never be a barrier for those seeking to achieve their dreams of a higher education,” Cuomo said. “New York is proud to be the first state in the nation to require every public campus to have a food pantry, ensuring that our students have all they need on the path to success.”