In a quiet conference room in Dunn Hall, shelves are stocked with snacks, quick meal staples and toiletry items, all free for SUNY Potsdam students in need. Students can slip in and select what they need between classes, or drop off donations anytime during office hours.
For the past 10 years, the SUNY Potsdam Campus Food Pantry has been supported and run by the Department of Public Health and Human Performance.
“We train professionals to work with high-needs populations, so this is a great opportunity to teach students to be nonjudgmental and understanding,” said Sarah Lister, who supervises the pantry in addition to her work as the department’s community health internship coordinator.
Students who are experiencing food insecurity are welcome to stop by and take what they need. Non-perishable snacks like cereal, granola bars and chips are available, as are easy-to-prepare meal items like boxed macaroni and cheese, rice, beans, soups, peanut butter and bread. A small refrigerator contains items like cheese and yogurt.
“This is a no-judgment zone. I really want students to know that you don’t need to show your ID, you don’t have to fill out an application, you just come in and take what you need. I have had friends question where their next meal is coming from, and that’s scary. We just really want to let everyone know that this resource is here for them,” said Joshua DeMarsh ’18, a senior speech communication major who is interning for the Campus Food Pantry as part of the capstone project for his minor in community health.
Lister said the pantry gets a lot of traffic toward the end of each semester, as students’ meal plans or their savings begin to run out.
“Food flies off the shelves, especially easy-to-prepare meal foods, like pasta and sauce,” she said.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo recently called for all SUNY and CUNY campuses to create on-campus food banks, in his No Student Goes Hungry Program. With its longstanding Campus Food Pantry, SUNY Potsdam is ahead of the curve, and hoping that increased awareness about food insecurity among college students in New York State will both encourage increase donations and encourage those who need help to take advantage when needed.
Lister works with student interns and volunteers, including those majoring in her department’s programs, and those looking to support the pantry through philanthropic work with campus clubs and organizations.
“I have had students tell me that there have been times that they have needed to use the food pantry, and times that they have been able to donate themselves,” Lister said. “That experience of having been on both sides of the equation is very important and really helps develop a sense of empathy for high-needs individuals in the communities that these students will be working with one day.”
The SUNY Potsdam Campus Food Pantry is located in Dunn Hall Room 100, and is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. There is a whiteboard available for students to request items that they might need.
In addition to food, students in need have also requested toiletries, such as toothpaste and menstrual products, Lister said.
SUNY Potsdam employees and affiliated organizations have stepped up to support the Campus Food Pantry over the past decade. Faculty and staff members regularly drop off donations or make gifts to support the resource. Groups such as the College’s CSEA chapter have held food drives to benefit the pantry.
In addition, student organizations such as the Health and Fitness Advocates have raised awareness and solicited donations for the center, something that DeMarsh is working to ramp up in his senior year.
“After learning about the Campus Food Pantry, I realized that I know a lot of people and organizations and felt that I could step in and help to enrich this by increasing donations and attention,” DeMarsh said. “I’m hoping to help build something that will continue to blossom even after I graduate and move on.”
Potsdam Auxiliary and College Educational Services Inc., which operates Dining Services at SUNY Potsdam, allows students to purchase items with their Flex account to donate to the Campus Food Pantry.
Alumni have also stepped up to support the Campus Food Pantry. Once again this year, attendees at Reunion Weekend will be asked to donate food items or monetary gifts to the pantry, in a food drive organized by the Order of Prometheus.
The Potsdam College Foundation has an account designated especially for the Campus Food Pantry, allowing Lister to purchase needed goods when items run low or when in-demand items are on sale. To make a tax-exempt donation, you can write a check to the Potsdam College Foundation (write “Campus Food Pantry” in the attention line).
You can also donate online by visiting https://www.potsdam.edu/giving, and clicking “Give Now.” Please write “Campus Food Pantry” under the designated program for this gift. Employees can also opt to provide recurring gifts through payroll deductions designated to support the pantry.
Donations of food items can be made by dropping groceries off during business hours at the Campus Food Pantry in Dunn Hall. To keep track of what items are most in need, you can visit the center’s Facebook page, at https://www.facebook.com/sunypotsdamfoodpantry.
The SUNY Potsdam Department of Public Health and Human Performance offers both a Bachelor of Science and a Master of Science degree in community health, as well as a Bachelor of Science major in exercise science. In addition, the department offers minors in wilderness education, therapeutic recreation, nutrition, sexual health, fitness and community health. To find out more, visit http://www.potsdam.edu/academics/SOEPS/PublicHealthHP.
Founded in 1816, The State University of New York at Potsdam is one of America’s first 50 colleges—and the oldest institution within SUNY. Now in its third century, SUNY Potsdam is distinguished by a legacy of pioneering programs and educational excellence. The College currently enrolls approximately 3,700 undergraduate and graduate students. Home to the world-renowned Crane School of Music, SUNY Potsdam is known for its challenging liberal arts and sciences core, distinction in teacher training and culture of creativity. To learn more, visit www.potsdam.edu.