Food Pantry Fills Bellies, Focuses Minds

According to Dean Ronald Jackson, this number was a bit shocking and inspired the college to change its policy surrounding food insecurity to tackle the issue with more ferocity. In the past, Brooklyn College provided food insecure students with vouchers they could use in Target to purchase food. In the past year, the agreement between the college and Target fell through and with a community to serve, the school felt a pantry may be an even more efficient way to tackle
the issue.

According to Dean Jackson, it is inevitable that some Brooklyn College students fall into this food insecurity statistic and that is why this pantry is crucial.

“As a commuter school, Brooklyn College reflects what happens in the community in which it sits. The map that was provided to you reflects what is happening in the community as a whole, and isn’t related in particular to tuition at the college,” said Dean Jackson. “The issue of food insecurity on college campuses isn’t new, but more recently a lot of attention is being put on the issue nationally. It’s being said that living in Brooklyn has become much more expensive. Thus, for our students, just daily living expenses can be a cause of concern.”

The pantry is funded by the Carroll and Milton Petrie Foundation, a grant system that has been providing funding to Brooklyn College’s emergency student services for years. The foundation will fund the pantry with $9,000 per year. This grant pays for food that the Food Bank of New York delivered to the college every three months in order to keep the pantry open.

According to Cordero­Garcia, the pantry has also gotten a lot of assistance from donations.

Donation boxes have been placed in the library, the office of Judaic studies and even at President Gould’s Christmas party. The food donations allowed the pantry to open early and helped keep the doors open.

Students in need can make a confidential appointment to visit the pantry. Appointments can be scheduled on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1–3 p.m. and Wednesdays 2­6 p.m. When they arrive, students are provided with family­-sized portions.

Cordero­Garcia explained that the family­size bag is crucial. “The reality is we are not just serving the students. We are serving the students and their families. We’ve had young mothers come in. We’ve had students who live with their senior parents.”

The pantry also works more like a store allowing students to choose what their pantry package will be filled with.

“Client choice is empowering because it is hard enough to ask for help,” said Cordero­Garcia. “The student or client still has the opportunity to say no I don’t want to eat this. This is what I want.”

According to Cordero­Garcia, students love to choose peanut butter, and easy on­the­go snacks like microwavable rice, granola bars and mixed fruit.

Aside from providing students with food they need, the pantry has been designed to encourage students to apply for scholarships and emergency grants, to utilize the clinic and personal counseling, use their resources to make healthy decisions and to not be afraid to ask for help.

“They may come to the pantry for food insecurity but there may be other issues they are dealing with,” said Dean Jackson. “So what we try to do is address all of the students’ issues that could affect them in the campus environment…but we also want them to feel that they are not in this alone.”

For Cordero­Garcia, running the pantry and spreading this information is personal. “As a first-generation student, I had moved out when I was 18. I didn’t always have the funds, but I had a lot of pride,” said Cordero­Garcia. “Because of that, I never necessarily told people that I was hungry, but it was my peers who noticed…One of the things is getting students to realize that there are resources, that they don’t have to feel ashamed.”

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