As the coronavirus pandemic continues in New York state, many are struggling to secure access to necessary supplies. In response, the Bear Necessities Food Pantry at Binghamton University is working to allocate resources such as food, hygiene items and household items.
With constant changes to state and campus mandates in accordance with COVID-19 safety measures, the pantry adjusted its procedures to accommodate students while adhering to social distancing protocol. Although some students remain on campus in residence halls or in off-campus housing, the pantry has changed to an online ordering process to ensure the safety of students and faculty. Students requesting resources are now asked to enter information such as their first name and B-Number. They also are asked to choose pickup options to fit their schedule.
Linda Salomons, parent, family and events coordinator for Parent and Family Programs, who oversees the food pantry, wrote in an email that online ordering and pickup has been well received by students so far.
“We’re not sure yet if the popularity was based on the fact that it was the end of the month and money runs out for some students receiving financial aid, that students felt it was safer and more convenient or because more students were being referred to use the pantry by staff reviewing Emergency Fund grants,” Salomons wrote. “Whatever the case, we are happy that students are finding us and using the food pantry service we offer to assist in their time of need.”
Salomons said the online forms are available each week beginning at 4 p.m. on Friday for the following week’s orders.
“We strongly suggest students submit the form Friday through Sunday — most items will be replenished at the beginning of the week and will be granted first come, first served based on when the form is submitted,” Salomons wrote.
The food pantry typically uses student workers to operate, but since most students have moved back home, they are left with two students who decided to remain in the area and University staff members who have volunteered their help in restocking inventory and picking up orders. The number of total staff volunteers varies depending on availability.
Gerard Dempsey, a food pantry employee and a sophomore majoring in integrative neuroscience, is working from home to assist the food pantry during the pandemic.
“This semester I organized an awareness campaign about food insecurity and have been collecting donations in the form of raffle ticket purchases,” Dempsey said. “This is a volunteer effort to honor the legacy of my late boss, Milton Chester, who previously ran the pantry. While it’s not something that falls under my normal job description, it’s just a thing I’m doing to help benefit the pantry right now.”
To serve the increasing needs of students, the pantry partners with Community Hunger Outreach Warehouse (CHOW) and BU Dining Services (BUDS). Additionally, the pantry receives a co-sponsorship from the Off Campus College Council (OC3) and financial donations. These have helped the pantry provide a larger variety of nutritional meal options such as frozen meat and fish, fresh produce, household items and hygiene items.
Salomons also noted that the pantry has received an influx of donations since the pandemic began.
“Many students before they moved out and went home dropped off items,” Salomons wrote. “Many senior students donated the funds still on the[ir] BUC$ cards, Grace Point Church in Vestal recently had a food drive and dropped off a ton of items and a check. In addition, community members, alumni, parents, staff and faculty have donated items or funds online at our website.”
Salomons wrote that it is important to support students with food insecurity to ensure academic and individual success, no matter the situation. She said the pandemic has only added pressure to those in need and hopes the pantry can serve them.
“COVID-19 has heightened the need for many students — some who counted on jobs to help support themselves, some who might not feel comfortable or safe going to a busy grocery store and some who are facing other hardships like anxiety or maintaining a healthy diet,” Salomons wrote. “We want our students to be successful and the University wants to support them and their needs as best we can in completing their academic degree.”
Dempsey said the pantry has valuable been for the thousands of students during his time volunteering, and stressed the importance of offering support amid uncertainty.
“The pantry is an important resource for students during an average year, and I’m sure the pandemic has only made times financially tougher for students,” Dempsey said. “Making sure people can eat so they can focus on their academics and staying safe and healthy is super important, and the pantry is helping with that now more than ever.”
The Bear Necessities Food Pantry is located in Nelson A. Rockefeller Collegiate Center 168. Information regarding online orders and pickup can be found on their website. Those who wish to donate items or volunteer should contact firstname.lastname@example.org.