Words and photos by The Campus Editorial Board
Food scarcity and food insecurity are issues that affect roughly 40% of the CUNY student body each year. In 2016, the Colin Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership at The City College of New York teamed up with the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG), a non-profit, non-partisan research and public education organization, to make accessible food on campus a reality.
Benny’s Food Pantry, which lends its name from the City College mascot Benny the Beaver (readers might recognize him as the Castor canadensis that adorns regal purple signage throughout campus), has grown since 2016. This past October, a ribbon-cutting ceremony marked the official opening of Benny’s Food Pantry that moved it from its humble beginnings on the sixth floor of the NAC building into new, spacious digs: the kitchen inside the Hoffman Student Center located on the first floor of the same building. According to a letter from City College President Vincent Boudreau, students have a lot to look forward to with this new development. Boudreau states, “These new facilities have the capacity to store fresh foods, expand our canned food and boxed food options, and even host cooking demonstrations and potentially, a CSA for the campus.”
At the present time, just two weeks after Benny’s second inaugural opening, the food pantry has much to offer students. In addition to the gustatory fare on tap inside the pantry, there are utensils, bags to take goods home, a microwave, and an electric kettle for students to use. The most popular food offerings and ones most sought after for donation are those that can be used right away as quick fuel: instant jasmine rice, chips for snacking, popcorn, and fruit leathers.
Fresh produce are also available inside the pantry. A majority of this produce comes from the “CCNY/NYPIRG Food Pantry” garden patch at the Urban Gardens at City College, a series of raised garden beds located on the north side of the lawn at the Bernard and Anne Spitzer School of Architecture. Some of the products come from the “Roofpod” as well, located above the architecture school. (As of the publication of this article, there are lovely looking cucumbers, eggplants, and tomatoes freely available at Benny’s from these gardens).
Although there is the option to take items home from the pantry, some students are reportedly reluctant to do so. One of the challenges that students face when using the food pantry for the first time is learning how to cook and make full use of the ingredients available. A New York Times article highlighted this issue and re-upped their profile of Jack Monroe, a renowned home chef who is well known for bringing the issue to the fore and tackling it. For students looking for inspiring ideas on how to cook using pantry staples and a microwave, Jack Monroe’s website cookingonabootstrap.com is a veritable trove of recipes that feature different ways of using pantry staples to their fullest potential. Although there is a bit of leg work involved in converting from metric units, if the commenters’ reviews are anything to go by, the recipe results are well worth the effort of learning a new skill.
Benny’s has made it a mission to make
food essentials, both on-the-spot and to take home, available to everyone and
anyone on campus; no questions asked. The pantry operates Mondays through
Fridays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. It is even open during the winter and summer
breaks. For a quieter experience, you can try going during class hours, as
Benny’s tends to pick up traffic when students hop from one class to the next.
More information about Benny’s Food Pantry Below: