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SUNY Oswego creates food pantry

Payne Horning
SUNY Oswego staff and students have created a food pantry on campus, complete with toiletries and clothing.

In the basement of Penfield Library at SUNY Oswego, there's a room where the shelves are not filled with books.

"We've got pastas, and we've got popcorn, Jell-O, beans, cereals, jelly -- a lot of jelly," said SUNY Oswego Student Government Association President Emily Nassir as she surveyed the recently created food pantry. Just a few months ago, this was an empty space. Now it's covered in a plethora of canned and boxed foods and toiletries. And there's even a mini clothing store and adjacent fitting room.  

Credit Payne Horning / WRVO News
SUNY Oswego Student Government Association President Emily Nassir shows off the clothing section in the new campus food pantry. Students can try on the clothes in the adjacent fitting room.

"You're going to be able to take the clothes from there, come in here and change and then leave," Nassir said. "The good thing is this nice door so you can have your privacy while you change."

Nassir worked with the Oswego administration earlier this year to create the food pantry, which is called S.H.O.P, Students Helping Oz Peers. Nassir said it serves an important function at a time when the ballooning costs of college are beginning to affect students from all backgrounds.

"I don’t like to think of S.H.O.P as you have to be at rock bottom to come here," Nassir said. "It’s Students Helping Oz Peers. If you need help, however you interpret that help, it’s here for you to get it."

And as the winter season approaches, that help can also come in the form of winter wear. Nassir says the pantry is getting a lot of jacket and coat donations. 

"It’s meant to be a rounded assistantship to students so they’re able to sustain themselves while on campus," She said. "It’s worth acknowledging that sustaining isn’t just about food, it’s about hygiene and taking care of your body in every way -- keeping yourself warm in the tundra of Oswego."

Nassir said the idea for a food pantry was inspired by other college campuses in the state. Clare Cady, who started the College and University Food Bank Alliance (CUFBA), said the campus pantry movement is actually a nationwide trend. 

"At this point as college costs and the costs associated with college climb and financial aid is not keeping pace with that, we’re finding that the issue is becoming more prevalent," Cady said. "A lot more schools are working to address it."

CUFBA helps campuses address food insecurity, primarily through launching food pantries. Cady said food insecurity affects anywhere from 20 to 40 percent of students on any given campus. The issue, she says, is that pantries typically only serve a temporary fix.

"It’s essentially putting a band aid on a bullet wound," Cady said. "So, if you can get a student food for a week, for a night, but what happens the next night or next week? At that point you need to pair it with longer term solutions."

Cady says lawmakers need to invest more in colleges and universities or supplement financial aid packages. 

Payne Horning is a reporter and producer, primarily focusing on the city of Oswego and Oswego County. He has a passion for covering local politics and how it impacts the lives of everyday citizens. Originally from Iowa, Horning moved to Muncie, Indiana to study journalism, telecommunications and political science at Ball State University. While there, he worked as a reporter and substitute host at Indiana Public Radio. He also covered the 2015 session of the Indiana General Assembly for the statewide Indiana Public Broadcasting network.