QUEENSBURY — When Yasmin Lopez started as director of SUNY Adirondack’s Community Hub earlier this year, she realized there was one area the school needed to add in its outreach to students.
“I was seeing that food insecurity is an issue on campus,” she said. “Students didn’t have enough food to eat, and if you are hungry, you can’t learn. We had students who were making the decision in spending money for gas to get to school or food to eat.”
The hub’s Food Source, which is in the Student Center, is already up and operating three days a week. Tuesday, more than 50 people from the school and the outside community gathered for a ribbon-cutting with school President Kristine Duffy.
Duffy talked about a national survey of 33,000 community college students that found half of them did not have a stable housing situation, 14 percent were homeless and two-thirds were food-insecure.
“In the richest nation in the world, how is this possible? We understand that education is one of the roads out of poverty,” she said. “This provides them with basic needs that you and I are privileged to take for granted.”
Lopez cited another study, this one of 300 college students, in which 48 percent said they had felt insecurity about getting enough food to eat.
“If they don’t have food in their bellies, how to we expect them to do homework and write papers?” she asked.
The Community Hub offers a variety of services to students, including help with securing health insurance, transportation, family and individual counseling, drug and alcohol counseling, tax preparation and access to the “professional clothes” closet.
In the past, Lopez has referred students to local food pantries, but many students felt uncomfortable with that, so she pushed for establishment of a pantry, using a different name, at the school.
“There’s such a stigma with the those words,” Lopez said. “They don’t want to go to a ‘food pantry,’ so we make it easier for them here. We do take the students’ names, and if we see someone coming in a lot, we can offer to help them in other ways.”
In a month, the Food Source has served 60 students. The overall hub program is being operated under a federal Community Schools grant.
The Food Source also provides personal care items, and no income documentation is required.
Community members who would like to help stock the Food Source pantry shelves may send a check (made out to SUNY Adirondack) to Food Source, SUNY Adirondack, 64 Bay Road, Queensbury, NY 12804-1445. Please note in the memo line that the funds are for the Food Source.