With some students facing food insecurity as a result of COVID-19, Alfred State College has initiated a pilot food pantry program to help.
Currently, Alfred State is housing over 50 students in the residence halls on campus. These students were unable to go home due to financial or technology hardships. The students that were relying on public transportation are now unable to work or access stores to get their basic essentials such as food and hygiene products.
As a result, the food pantry program was born. A call for donations was put out to the Alfred State community on April 3 for non-perishable food and personal care items in a drop-off bin outside of the Townhouse Commons. Items collected range from canned food items, to pasta, to toothpaste, to soap, and more.
Student Senate and Campus Round Table collaborated with the food pantry by cumulatively investing $3,000 to supplement the steady stream of donations. A student and staff team that included representatives from Residential Life, Student Senate, and Civic Engagement has managed donations, requests, and bagging up pantry items for pickup twice a week.
A new food insecurity fund is complementing this effort to support student needs. To date, 32 donors have contributed $3,661.46 online to support student needs, including purchasing grocery store gift cards for students in need. To make an online donation, visit https://app.mobilecause.com/vf/PIONEERS/team/StudentEmergencyFund
Jonathan Hilsher, director of the Center for Civic Engagement, said, “The food pantry and fund is one important way we’re seeking to support student success during this trying time. I especially appreciate how we were able to closely coordinate and collaborate with Student Senate to meet this need.”
Hilsher noted that the food pantry will continue into the fall semester and become a permanent option for students in need.
Elisabeth Rebmann, Student Senate president, helped spearhead the program, which has really taken on a life of its own. Student Senate has already created a new board position, as well as an operational budget to help it continue. The community is encouraged to donate money or items year-round in an effort to keep this program running.
"Student Senate will be opening their food pantry in fall 2020,” Rebmann said. “The food pantry is called ‘The Plate’ and stands for ‘Project Lead Alfred Toward Equity.’ Student Senate is working to provide all students with meals to ensure they are healthy, happy, and successful."
Alfred State has already been able to help over 50 students overcome food insecurities resulting from COVID-19. Reducing this fear has helped them focus on adjusting to online learning.
Student reactions to the food pantry program have been very touching. One student remarked, “Wow, this is awesome! Thank you so much for doing this.” Several others commented how easy this food pantry was to utilize.
Residence Hall Director and Alfred State alum Rob Privitera, said, “I’m really happy that my team has been able to give back to a community that gave a lot to me when I was a student. Filling the boxes and sorting applications is not hard work at all, especially with the great team members we have, and it makes a huge difference for our students.”