SUNY Potsdam community supports students in need through campus food pantry
Sarah Lister oversees the Campus Food Pantry at SUNY Potsdam, with the help of volunteers like senior Joshua DeMarshPOTSDAM –In a quiet conference room in Dunn Hall, shelves are stocked with snacks, quick meal staples and toiletry items, all free for SUNY Potsdam students in need. Students can slip in and select what they need between classes, or drop off donations anytime during office hours.
Students who need help can to stop by and take what they need, according to a press release from the college. Non-perishable snacks like cereal, granola bars and chips are available, as are easy-to-prepare meal items like boxed macaroni and cheese, rice, beans, soups, peanut butter and bread. A small refrigerator contains items like cheese and yogurt.
For the past 10 years, the SUNY Potsdam Campus Food Pantry has been supported and run by the Department of Public Health and Human Performance.
"We train professionals to work with high-needs populations, so this is a great opportunity to teach students to be nonjudgmental and understanding," said Sarah Lister, who supervises the pantry in addition to her work as the department's community health internship coordinator.
"This is a no-judgment zone. I really want students to know that you don't need to show your ID, you don't have to fill out an application, you just come in and take what you need. I have had friends question where their next meal is coming from, and that's scary. We just really want to let everyone to know that this resource is here for them," said senior intern Joshua DeMarsh.
Lister said the pantry gets a lot of traffic toward the end of each semester, as students' meal plans or their savings begin to run out.
"Food flies off the shelves, especially easy-to-prepare meal foods, like pasta and sauce," she said.
Lister works with student interns and volunteers, including those majoring in her department's programs, and those looking to support the pantry through philanthropic work with campus clubs and organizations.
"I have had students tell me that there have been times that they have needed to use the food pantry, and times that they have been able to donate themselves," Lister said. "That experience of having been on both sides of the equation is very important and really helps develop a sense of empathy for high-needs individuals in the communities that these students will be working with one day."
The SUNY Potsdam Campus Food Pantry is in Dunn Hall Room 100, and is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. There is a whiteboard available for students to request items that they might need.
In addition to food, students in need have also requested toiletries, such as toothpaste and menstrual products, Lister said.
SUNY Potsdam employees and affiliated organizations have supported the Campus Food Pantry over the past decade. Faculty and staff members regularly drop off donations or make gifts. Groups such as the college's CSEA chapter have held food drives to benefit the pantry.
Potsdam Auxiliary and College Educational Services, which runs Dining Services for SUNY Potsdam, has now made it possible for students with a remaining balance on their meal plans at the end of the semester to designate those funds toward the Campus Food Pantry. PACES also makes donations of non-perishable items like to-go cereals, granola bars and bottled water.
Alumni also support the pantry. Once again this year, attendees at Reunion Weekend will be asked to donate food items or money to the pantry, in a food drive organized by the Order of Prometheus.
The Potsdam College Foundation has an account designated especially for the pantry, allowing Lister to purchase goods when items run low or when in-demand items are on sale.
To make a tax-exempt donation, you can write a check to the Potsdam College Foundation (write "Campus Food Pantry" in the attention line).
You can also donate online by visiting www.potsdam.edu/giving, and clicking "Give Now." Write "Campus Food Pantry" under the designated program for this gift. Employees can also opt to provide recurring gifts through payroll deductions designated to support the pantry.
Donations of food items can be made by dropping groceries off during business hours in Dunn Hall. The center's Facebook page, at www.facebook.com/sunypotsdamfoodpantry, notes what items are most in need.