Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Pipe Dream Article about their Food Pantry

FEATURE: Food Pantry

Published: October 05, 2010

Nicole Palermo/Contributing Photographer

Tucked away in the kitchen of the Financial Aid office is Binghamton University’s food pantry, a confidential place where students can get food in any situation of need and not worry about being judged, according to Patti Donahue, associate director of financial aid.

“We started this for emergency purposes only, for students that did not have enough funding or extra money,” Donahue said.

Chris Knickerbocker, the director of financial aid at the time, founded the food pantry in 1991. She found her inspiration within the student body, when a student approached her who could not go home for Thanksgiving break.

“He came to me and asked about food. He didn’t know what to do,” Knickerbocker said.

Knickerbocker contacted the Community Hunger Outreach Warehouse (CHOW), and they donated two bags of groceries to the student. Knickerbocker decided that she did not want to have to work through CHOW each time a student needed food.

The pantry first received donations from the Student Affairs office and at the annual staff holiday party, said Knickerbocker, who is now director of student affairs assessment and strategic initiatives.

In addition to food items, the pantry also includes items for babies and certain staples such as toiletries and brown paper bags.

“But also, someone once told me, just don’t give staples,” Knickerbocker said. “People need to enjoy their life so we put cake mixes and things in. It may be something someone might think isn’t necessary but people like to have something beyond the essentials.”

The food pantry received many of these improvements the first semester it started, according to Knickerbocker.

Donahue, who has worked in the financial aid office for the past seven years, said it hasn’t changed much since that semester, and even though it has been around for almost 20 years, it has not changed drastically in size either.

“We kind of keep it under wraps because we don’t want to have tons of students coming in here just because; we want it to go for those in need,” Donahue said.

The people who do use the pantry are kept anonymous.

Although bags were previously tracked for inventory purposes, Donahue said there is currently no tracking to respect the student’s privacy.

“We never asked if they were a student, we didn’t pry because we just didn’t want to,” Knickerbocker said. “We thought it was hard enough for them to come in the first place.”

Knickerbocker said she wants students to know it is there to use, and she hopes other students who do not have the need that others do will donate instead.

“If any student organizations are thinking about donating to CHOW, think about our students first,” Knickerbocker said. “I think we have this vision of who our students are, and metro New York may be well off, but we also have students that don’t come from places like that.”

Messages are sent out on Dateline, a faculty and staff e-mail newsletter, before the winter holidays and various times throughout the year, and donations are accepted year-round.

“I’d love there to be no need for a food pantry, but as long as we have need I think we should serve our students well,” Knickerbocker said. Alexandra Abel

Assistant News Editor

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