The Binghamton University Food Pantry, which provides food and personal care items to students struggling with food insecurity, is currently collecting online donations for its Food Drive from now until Oct. 14.
The Food Pantry switched to online ordering when the University went remote last semester due to the coronavirus pandemic. Purchases for the Food Drive are made through e-commerce site YouGiveGoods, which will ship donated items to the Food Pantry at the end of the drive on Oct. 15, so contributors do not have to ship donated items themselves. An individual can order once a week and pick up their items at the Iroquois Commons, the Food Pantry’s new location, once it is ready.
Donors are able to purchase sets of individual items, including food items, such as fruit cups, cans of beans and pasta sauce, as well as toiletries including toothbrushes and body lotion. They also have the option of donating food boxes, which contain an assortment of easy-to-prepare food products.
However, not all needed items are available through YouGiveGoods so the Food Pantry’s website has its own list of items students are encouraged to donate as well. Goods range from cooking oil, spices and cereal to small household items such as laundry pods and paper towels. Donors can schedule a drop-off time by emailing the Food Pantry or mailing their donations in order to donate.
According to the Food Pantry’s website, food insecurity has the potential to greatly hinder academic and personal success.
“If our students’ physiological needs aren’t being met, it ultimately decreases the chances of them meeting their full potential and their overall experience at BU,” the Food Pantry’s website stated.
By shifting to online ordering, the Food Pantry has seen improved engagement with donors, according to Maddie Petherick, a graduate assistant for the Food Pantry and a first-year graduate student studying student affairs administration.
“The online food drive definitely makes it easier for people to donate — they get to shop, like an Instacart, and then simply plug in their credit card information,” Petherick wrote in an email. “We also have seen a lot of engagement from parents and families of students back in their hometowns who then share the drive with their circle of family and friends.”
The pandemic has not diminished the number of donations the Food Pantry receives, but the number of students in need has grown.
“When students moved off campus last spring, many brought us extra food they had stocked up in the dorms to distribute out to those in need and many donated the leftover dollars on their [BU Card System (BUC$)] cards,” Petherick wrote. “In terms of students using the food pantry, definitely in the spring, we saw an increased number of students using the pantry.”
About 100 students per week utilize the Food Pantry, according to Linda Salomons, parent, family and events coordinator and overseer of the Food Drive. With fewer jobs available both on and off campus, it has become harder for many students to purchase necessities, leading them to turn to the Food Pantry for supplies.
“We are seeing close to 100 students using the pantry each week,” Salomons wrote in an email. “Many of the students [are the same] we are seeing each week, which means that their situation has not gotten better.”
The Food Pantry remained open during the summer to aid students in need of service. During that time, according to Salomons, about 40 to 50 students used the Food Pantry per week. The Food Pantry plans to remain open during the University’s two-week pause as well as over Thanksgiving break. However, hours of operation will be reduced due to the need for volunteer help with managing goods and packing bags.
This year’s Food Drive has already seen more donations than last fall’s, with 1,025 pounds purchased as of Oct. 7 while fall 2019’s raised 787 pounds in total.
Salomons said the service the Food Pantry provides has been particularly helpful during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Students have been incredibly grateful for the service we are providing at the Food Pantry,” Salomons wrote in an email. “The assistance has been extremely helpful to them during this uncertain time.”