August 11, 2022
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Food pantry on campus seeks to reduce food insecurity among students

Members of the Graduate Student Organization at Binghamton University distribute free produce to students. Members of the Graduate Student Organization at Binghamton University distribute free produce to students.
Members of the Graduate Student Organization at Binghamton University distribute free produce to students. Image Credit: Jonathan Cohen.

Binghamton University created the Bear Necessities Food Pantry with a particular goal in mind: to help alleviate the food insecurity that students may face at some point during their time in college.

“I have frequently had to go to the pantry to fulfill my dietary needs,” said Jason Li, a junior mechanical engineering major. “As a low-income student myself, I am no stranger to going hungry due to unfortunate financial situations. I know that someone not being able to feed themselves sufficiently impacts every part of their life negatively.

“From the point of view of a student, not only is there constant worrying about whether or not you have enough for the next meal, which can lead to general anxiety and depression, but lack of food also deprives you of the energy needed to study and do well academically, or participate in activities outside of the classroom,” he said.

The pantry, located in Nelson A Rockefeller Center (RC) Room 168, is open from 11 a.m.−4 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. All students are welcome to use the pantry once a week, and only need their student ID to gain access to its multitude of free resources — including canned goods, hygiene products, frozen foods and much more.

“I’ve worked in student affairs for well over 20 years now, but in the last four years my eyes have been opened to food insecurity,” said Milton Chester, assistant dean for Off Campus Services and Programs. “It’s amazing to me the number of students who are dealing with food insecurity — students that you see every day. A lot of those students aren’t sure where the next meal is coming from.”

“Most of the students are away from their families here, and there are students who are new in this town, so they don’t know where to get stuff from,” said Nikhil Parab, a graduate student assistant for the pantry. “But if they come to the pantry, then they can get all the basic necessities that need.”

According to Parab, there are some limits to how much students can take of certain items. For example, students are allowed one can of pasta sauce and one bag of pasta per week. Essentially, students are allotted a week’s supply of food to guarantee enough inventory is available for each visitor.

Gerard Dempsey, a sophomore and student assistant for the pantry, also uses it. “Personally, I don’t need to go to Wegmans or anything, because there’s soap and detergent [at the pantry],” he said. “So it saves you a fair amount of money if you just come once a week — which is what you’re allowed to do. It’s good to have food in your room.”

The pantry also hosts produce giveaways at least twice a semester, giving students access to healthy food options. Another giveaway is scheduled for November, however, an official date has not yet been set.

“You want people to eat healthily,” said Chester. “We give away fresh produce — fresh fruits and fresh vegetables. And it’s all free. So that’s the purpose of it. We want to provide healthy food for students.”

According to Li, without the food pantry and the produce giveaways, he would have to skip meals or sacrifice proper nutrition to feed himself adequately during the semester.

“There are definitely Binghamton students out there who are struggling with food insecurity or proper nutrition because of low income or lack of experience managing their food intake,” said Li. “The pantry, along with the produce giveaways it is now sponsoring, is an absolutely necessary resource for students to promote our well-being and allow us to achieve our academic goals.”

Check out the pantry’s webpage for more information. Any questions about the pantry can be directed to Chester.

Posted in: Campus News