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Photo courtesy of Queens College
(from l. to r.) Zunera Ahmed, Knights Table Food Pantry Director Drew Dillon, Knights Table Food Pantry Assistant Monica Linval, Farbod Moghadam, Queens College President Félix V. Matos Rodríguez, Carmine Couloute, Dwayne D. Jones, and Melody Paniagua.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony on Monday marked the official opening of Queens College Knights Table Food Pantry that will serve as a resource for students in need.

Queens College President Felix Matos Rodriguez was joined by student organizations and clubs at the food pantry that is currently accessible to registered students throughout the academic year.

“I think all of us with time would like to be in a place where there’s no student that suffers from food insecurity,” said Matos Rodriguez. “I think that’s the ultimate goal moving forward but while that is a situation that our students face, I’m proud of people coming together to be supportive of our students.”

The initiative is a part of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s “No Student Goes Hungry Program” announced in August. New York State public colleges at The State University of New York (SUNY) and The City University of New York (CUNY) will have a food pantry or stigma-free food access for students by the end of the fall semester. New York is the first state in the nation with a comprehensive program to combat student hunger.

Financial support for the Queens College Knights Table Food Pantry — sponsored by the Office of Student Development and Leadership at Queens College — will be provided by the Carroll and Milton Petrie Foundation Inc., the campus community, and by food drives and fundraisers to be held both on and off campus, Matos Rodriguez noted.

The pantry — located at the Queens College Student Union, Lower-Level, Room 29 — received donations from members of student clubs, organizations, administrators and faculty members.

“We have cereals, bread, juices, drinks, there are all kinds of canned goods from Goya beans to tuna salad..some ready to make meals like mac and cheese,” said Matos Rodriguez. “There are canned vegetables, corn, peas and carrots.”

The Healthy CUNY program employs a multifaceted approach to address food insecurity on CUNY campuses. To date, food pantries or food vouchers are available at 18 CUNY two- and four-year campuses, according to Cuomo’s office.

Student volunteers from their nutrition program will help determine what kinds of goods should be included in a bag or basket to make sure students can make nutritious meals that are well balanced, according to Matos Rodriguez.

“We want to do it in a way that people won’t feel stigmatized..but they get the support that they need, but also by consistently visiting the pantry we might be able to get information that might lead us to be able to be of assistance to those students in eradicating what leads to food insecurity,” said Matos Rodriguez.

Matos Rodriguez added, “Perhaps we need to do something else in terms of financial aid, or if there’s some sort of government benefits that they could apply to that they’re not aware of.”

Carmine Couloute, president of the Queens College Student Association, said that in order to make the food pantry sustainable after the holiday season, campus clubs will have pledge cards to donate canned goods every month.

“I feel like it gives students the opportunity to make sure that they know QC stands for them and understands what they go through as students in need,” said Couloute. “I think it’s a great opportunity for the school to give back to students, who do need resources and can’t afford food here and they have an option besides buying food or going home hungry that they have something here for them.”

The hours of operation for the fall 2018 and spring 2019 semesters are Monday to Thursday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., and Friday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. The college is working with the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG), the Student Association, campus clubs and organizations to encourage student support efforts.

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