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December 2015


"This must be for you:" FA stocks three campus food pantries
Sean Tvelia


ammerman food pantry
FA Vice President Sean Tvelia (left) poses with Frank Vino of Campus Activities and some of his student volunteers: from left, John Lynch, Krissy Jankowski, Valerie Vogele and Justin Lerner. (photo by Dante Morelli)

The newly established Eastern campus food pantry started with six cans.

Until the FA came around with its annual donation of $300 worth of groceries to each campus, that is.

There are now food pantries on all three campuses with the goal of ensuring that students experiencing food insecurity find the help they need.

The Grant Campus food pantry has been active for decades. This year Sister Mary Ann Borrello was able to provide meals for 224 families, which is a 24% increase from last year. Although it is wonderful that we as a college community are able to assist these families, the number served underscores a reality that faculty rarely see and that our students seldom, if ever, talk about.

"One obstacle we find at the Ammerman pantry," said FA member Frank Vino (Campus Activities), "is students are often reticent to use the pantry because of the fear of the stigma that comes with it. They fear they will be seen carrying groceries on campus which will make them look poor or they feel embarrassed about needing help."

Vino advises faculty to assure students that it really is a discreet process; let them know, he says, that it's on the lower level of Babylon Student Center, just to the left of the elevator. The "hidden" location itself helps students feel more comfortable, but faculty can also pick up food for students who wish to remain anonymous. This past Thanksgiving the Ammerman Campus assisted 25 families by providing bags of Thanksgiving food supplies and anticipates giving out an additional 40-50 bags of holiday food supplies.

eastern food bank donation
The Eastern campus has a new food pantry for students experiencing food insecurity. On November 18, FA members Misty Curreli (red FA jacket inside pantry), Cynthia Eaton (red FA jacket outside pantry) and Sarah Kain Gutowski (blue jacket at far right) helped stock the pantry with a group of students. (photo by Kelsea Cassone)

The new pantry at Eastern is strategically located adjacent to an external side door. Students can pick up food supplies and immediately walk to their car from the side of the Peconic Building.

Tim McHeffey, our FA community outreach coordinator who helped organize the Eastern food pantry donation, speaks to the importance of its existence: "Feeding the hungry is a basic. We unionists refer to each other as brothers and sisters; it's natural to pass on this similar life philosophy to our impressionable students," he noted.

"A wise woman from the Shinnecock Nation once shared a quote with me," McHeffey continued, "about her ancestors and sharing food with strangers: 'If you're here, then some of this must be for you.' Our members can and should live by this—it's what we do."

It was truly a campus effort to get the FA donations where they needed to be at Eastern. Alongside FA members Misty Curreli (Sociology), Cynthia Eaton (English), Sarah Kain Gutowski (English) and Tim McHeffey (Business), Associate Dean of Student Services Mary Reese, maintenance employee Rita Cruz and student volunteers Kelsea Cassone, Adam Dean, Katie Krukowski, Christopher North, Juliette Petersen, Nykel Reese, John Sampler and Andrew Smith all helped fill the pantry with the much needed donations.

Community colleges provide opportunities that many of our students would not otherwise be able to afford. As the executive vice president, I am continually amazed by the work our faculty do, both in and out of the classroom, to support our students and our greater communities.

If our students are here, then some of this must be for them. Let's keep giving to the pantries—and to our students in all of the other ways we can to support their success at Suffolk.