BUFFALO, N.Y. — Just when the shelves were starting to get a little empty, a FeedMore WNY delivery truck made a stop at Erie Community College's City Campus to replenish the food pantry.
"A lot of people when you think of someone who may be hungry, a college student doesn't readily come to mind. More and more often these populations of college students are struggling with hunger," said Catherine Shick, communications director at FeedMore WNY.
In 2018, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the "No Student Goes Hungry Program," calling for food pantries or stigma-free access to free food at all SUNY and CUNY schools.
ECC has three student food pantries — at the north, south, and downtown campuses. The downtown pantry opened one year ago. The other two opened in the fall of 2019.
In January 2020, the three pantries served a total of 139 households, which amounts to 410 people and nearly 3,700 meals.
ECC's student food pantries (which are also open to people in nearby communities) are also part of something called the Healthy Pantry Initiative, which means they do much more than just give away food.
"They can learn about how they are going to create seven meals for the week. They can come in and shop once a week and create meals for their whole household. It's a combination of proteins, grains and fruits and veggies," said Crystal Gramse, food pantry manager for ECC.
There are signs around the pantry that talk about nutrition, offer recipes or other healthy eating tips.
They offer a variety of fresh, canned and frozen foods. They also offer baby food and formula.
The ECC pantries are opened a combined five days a week. Assistance is based on federal income guidelines.
The City Campus food pantry, which is located in Room 145 in the Old Post Office Building, is open on Mondays from 12-4 p.m. and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Milligan's Food Pantry at SUNY Buffalo State started 21 years ago. It was also the first SUNY school to offer an online ordering system for those who utilize the pantry.
"As long as we have food, we are going to help," said Kristen Helling, Buffalo State student resource coordinator. "Their financial aid might run dry at a certain point in time. Food insecure means they don't have the money to get well-balanced meals to make it through the week or month, whatever it might be. That's what Milligan's is here for — assist students who don't have enough to eat."
Milligan's gets 275 unique visits each semester.
"Some of them, this is their only source of food. Some they want to add some benefit to their income and what they are working for. Their food budget isn't as large as they would like it to be, so this helps them get the full scope of the food pyramid," said Helling.
Milligan's works with the dietetics department to help students create healthier meals with pantry staples.
Milligan's relies on help from the school community and outside donations. Faculty and staff can donate a portion of their paycheck to support the student food pantry. The annual KIA Memorial Road March donates food to the pantry.
"You can go to a cheaper grocery store and get food, but sometimes it's not good quality... high in sodium and you have to worry about a balanced diet. So, it has definitely helped with maintaining certain things, like a balanced diet," said student Claudiann Godfrey.