Words and photograph by Terrell F. Merritt
Illustration by Katie Herchenroeder
The late afternoon sunlight splashed through the doorway of the food pantry in the North Academic Center as Cris G. headed in. “It is cool that students got involved to start the pantry. I guess it shows just how much can happen when you really care about an issue,” he said.
Student members of NYPIRG, The New York Public Interest Research Group, and others from the Colin Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership, started the food pantry two years ago.
“Students should not have to decide between their next meal and their next class,” said Darlenis Cabral, the CCNY NYPIRG chapter president. “This is important because, especially at CUNY, people do not speak about hunger or financial need.” NYPIRG says that, according to a survey, 20 percent of CUNY students identified as food insecure.
Anyone in the CCNY community can show up and choose from among the dry food products on the shelves – no questions asked. “The pantry exists to access no matter what a person’s situation is,” asserted Cabral.
But NYPIRG needs volunteers to staff the pantry and keep it open to make sure students get the food that they need.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said at a news conference last August that all SUNY and CUNY campuses should have a food pantry by the end of the fall semester. He made this statement as a part of his No Student Goes Hungry initiative, which also addresses the food insecurity of younger school children. Cuomo did not provide money for this project. He left the creation of the pantries and the funding up to individual colleges.
NYPIRG project coordinator Sinead Murray said the pantry depends upon the generosity of those who can give. “Food is provided primarily by donations from the City College community,” she said. Sometimes the group organizes food drives off campus, which also help keep shelves stocked.
Students can sign up to volunteer by reaching out to NYPIRG. Their office is located in room 1/120 of the North Academic Center, and additional contact information is available at nypirgstudents.org.