FMCC opens food pantry for students

JOHNSTOWN — Fulton-Montgomery Community College will establish a food pantry on campus to provide food access to students in need by the end of the fall semester in accordance with Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s No Student Goes Hungry program.

Cuomo proposed the No Student Goes Hungry program in his 2018 State of the State Address at the end of 2017. The comprehensive program is intended to provide students of all ages, backgrounds and finances access to healthy, locally-sourced meals from kindergarten through college to provide an improved learning experience, a press release stated.

The program includes a number of initiatives at public schools including preventing lunch shaming by offering students on free and reduced lunch plans the same meals that other students receive, requiring that breakfast be served after school begins at schools where at least 70 percent of students receive free or reduced price lunches, expanding the farm to school program and increasing the use of farm fresh locally grown foods at schools.

Under the program, Cuomo is requiring that all public colleges in the State University of New York and City University of New York system have a food pantry or stigma-free food access for students by the end of the fall semester.

“Hunger should never be a barrier for those seeking to achieve their dreams of a higher education,” Cuomo said in a prepared statement. “New York is proud to be the first state in the nation to require every public campus to have a food pantry, ensuring that our students have all they need on the path to success.”

SUNY created a Food Insecurity Task Force following the governor’s announcement to study food insecurity on college campuses and to recommend actions and best practices to address the issue.

During Thursday’s Board of Trustees meeting, FMCC President Dustin Swanger said that as a SUNY school the college will be establishing a food pantry on campus for students by the end of the fall semester.

“Certainly it is an issue, food related insecurity, it is an issue with students. I know I’ve talked to students on campus who have had to make the decision, do I buy the book for class or do I eat this week? So we know it is an issue, we’re happy to do it,” Swanger said.

The campus food pantry is being organized by coordinator for student services, Gwendolyn Ossenkop, and the Student Senate. The food pantry will be located outside of the student activities office on the lower level of the student union once it is operational.

Vice President for Student Affairs Jane Kelley reported that shelving is already in place for the pantry and the school is currently working with SUNY organizations to develop and implement the food pantry.

“We hope to be in full swing by the end of the year,” Kelley said.

Swanger added that the college is working to ensure that the pantry is organized and operated in a manner that will allow students to access the available food discreetly to prevent possible feelings of embarrassment.

Swanger noted that FMCC had a food pantry in the past before establishing a meal plan that may be covered with financial aid or that can be paid for through student loans.

“That’s something else that we talk with students about, even if you’re a commuter student you can buy a meal plan and that can be covered through financial aid and you can eat on campus,” Swanger said. “That’s one of the main reasons we started a meal plan on campus.”

Student Trustee Valerie Elwood will provide further details about FMCC’s food pantry to the board during the next meeting on Oct. 18.