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SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras visits Binghamton University Food Pantry

Binghamton University Food Pantry is a model for other campuses

State University of New York Chancellor Jim Malatras visits the Binghamton University Food Pantry, Sunday, Feb. 14. Pictured here, graduate assistant Maddie Petherick; Linda Salomons, food pantry coordinator; Aaron Gladd, SUNY chief of staff; Jacob Eckhaus, VP of finance for the Binghamton University Student Association and member of the SUNY Student Voices Action Committee tour the pantry with Malatras. State University of New York Chancellor Jim Malatras visits the Binghamton University Food Pantry, Sunday, Feb. 14. Pictured here, graduate assistant Maddie Petherick; Linda Salomons, food pantry coordinator; Aaron Gladd, SUNY chief of staff; Jacob Eckhaus, VP of finance for the Binghamton University Student Association and member of the SUNY Student Voices Action Committee tour the pantry with Malatras.
State University of New York Chancellor Jim Malatras visits the Binghamton University Food Pantry, Sunday, Feb. 14. Pictured here, graduate assistant Maddie Petherick; Linda Salomons, food pantry coordinator; Aaron Gladd, SUNY chief of staff; Jacob Eckhaus, VP of finance for the Binghamton University Student Association and member of the SUNY Student Voices Action Committee tour the pantry with Malatras. Image Credit: Jonathan Cohen.

SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras made a stop at the Binghamton University Food Pantry Sunday, holding it up as a model for all SUNY campuses as he announced a grant program to add refrigeration capabilities to all campus pantries.

The Binghamton University Food Pantry includes refrigeration units, enabling it to provide both nonperishable and perishable items to students in need. Malatras announced that grants of up to $1,000 will be available to other campuses to purchase refrigeration units so they can also store fresh food and protein. His goal is that every SUNY campus food pantry will have refrigeration capabilities in time for the fall semester.

Most important, Malatras said, is that the grant request has to be student driven.

“Student associations and other organizations will be able to apply for the grant on behalf of their campus. Right now, only 50% of our campuses have refrigeration,” Malatras said. “My thanks go to Jacob [Eckhaus] and Binghamton for providing a model by making a robust system with lot of fresh goods and that destigmatizes these pantries. It’s our moral imperative to do better for our students so they can thrive and learn.”

Eckhaus, a member of the SUNY Student Voices Action Committee that advises SUNY leadership on emerging, critical issues and challenges facing students across the system and the Student Association vice president for finance, brought the need for refrigeration units to the chancellor’s attention.

Binghamton’s pantry recently moved to above the CIW Dining Hall and also became a member of the Food Bank of the Southern Tier. Partnerships such as with the food bank and with M&T Bank support the pantry’s efforts to improve student nutrition.

“Food insecurity was a problem on our campuses even before the pandemic, but it’s been exacerbated because of it,” Malatras said. “One-third of our students have experienced it at some point in college. Because of that, we implemented a policy to require food pantries on every campus and it has helped.”

The chancellor noted that, pre-COVID, 320,000 students had visited SUNY food pantries, and that number has increased by 43% since the pandemic started. “We want our students to excel in their studies and hunger one of the barriers.

“Here at Binghamton, you walk into the pantry and it looks like any store you would walk into,” Malatras added. “It makes students in need feel a part of the community. Some students might be facing greater economic challenges, but it doesn’t make them any different than others.”

“Chancellor Malatras has a huge interest in making sure our students are well fed because it supports their success on an academic level,” said Binghamton University President Harvey Stenger.

“Our food pantry is student driven and it’s for students who are worried about where their next meal is coming from,” said Eckhaus. “Now, students can spend their energies on academics. They can fill up their body and soul and be able to focus on what’s important.”

Students wishing to use Binghamton’s pantry place their orders online. Orders are then packed and waiting for quick pickup during pantry hours.

“The idea is that we want to do this in a respectful way,” said Stenger, “so we have a system where a student can fill out a form, come here and pick up a bag that’s waiting here and they don’t have to go into the pantry so we’re always COVID compliant.”

Posted in: Campus News