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Food for Thought

UAlbany student volunteers last summer stand near food orders transported from St. Vincent's pantry to campus in a pilot project aimed at alleviating food insecurity among some college students.

ALBANY, N.Y. (April 30, 2019) – UAlbany wants to make sure that no student goes to bed hungry.

On May 29, Student Affairs will open an on-campus food pantry on the third floor of the Campus Center, with a grand opening scheduled for the first week of September. A contest will be held in the near future for students to formally name the pantry.

Students, faculty and staff, along with the public, can help raise money for pantry operations by registering for the Sodexo Fight Hunger 5k and Mindful Mile. The race starts at 9 a.m. this Saturday behind Indian Quad. Those who cannot attend can still make a donation at the registration site.

A recent survey of more than 1,800 UAlbany students indicated that 50 percent would use an on-campus food pantry, said Luke Rumsey, associate director of Off Campus Student Services. This is just slightly above the 48 percent national rate of campus food insecurity reported by NPR in 2016.

Rumsey noted that more than 2,000 students at UAlbany come from families living on less than $25,000 a year.

“Over the past four years I have worked closely with St. Vincent’s Food Pantry to help combat food insecurity in the community,” he said. “I am excited to see the University take such a significant step to ensure that our students have the resources they need to thrive both in and out of the classroom.”

The on-campus pantry, which will be open about 20 hours per week around classroom schedules and select evening hours, will be overseen by Clarence McNeill, UAlbany's new dean of students. Day-to-day operations will be managed by graduate assistants and field students from the MSW program and staffed, it is expected, by students from the Community and Public Service Program. The pantry will start out by offering non-perishable canned goods only.

“We are fortunate to have a president who understands the needs of our student body and celebrates the fact that a university education raises many of our students out of these challenging economic conditions they start with,” Rumsey said.

Sally D’Alessandro, director of Student CARE Services and administrator of the Student Affairs Student Emergency Fund, said she is “well aware of how tight money is for so many of our students. We are not talking about students who are spending money foolishly. We are talking about ones who are working close to full-time hours to pay for tuition, fees, books, rent and utilities. Food may be the only expense where they have the flexibility to spend less than necessary.”

For this reason, she said, “I love that my unit is addressing basic student needs and supporting student success in this way.”

The new pantry will be started through a $50,000 Collaborative Opportunity Grant from the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities. Rumsey and D’Allessandro are working with a consulting firm to ensure the pantry is financially sustainable in the long run.

A pivotal step toward an on-campus pantry came last July, when Rumsey began a pilot delivery system for students unable to make it to St. Vincent’s Food Pantry on Madison Avenue during its regular daytime hours. More than 400 Students ordered food through the MyInvolvement platform and selected one of two delivery dates each month. UAlbany student volunteers filled the orders at St. Vincent’s and delivered the food to campus.

The fall opening of the on-campus pantry is the next logical step. In addition, the University will continue its partnership with St. Vincent’s.

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About the University at Albany
A comprehensive public research university, the University at Albany-SUNY offers more than 120 undergraduate majors and minors and 125 master's, doctoral, and graduate certificate programs. UAlbany is a leader among all New York State colleges and universities in such diverse fields as atmospheric and environmental sciencesbusiness, public health, health sciences, criminal justice, emergency preparedness, engineering and applied sciences, informatics, public administration, social welfare, and sociology taught by an extensive roster of faculty experts. It also offers expanded academic and research opportunities for students through an affiliation with Albany Law School. With a curriculum enhanced by 600 study-abroad opportunities, UAlbany launches great careers.