On November 19, 2018, Queens College celebrated the opening of its first-ever food pantry: The Knights Table. Located in room LL29 of the Student Union, the pantry has made history this past year in its effort to tackle food insecurity amongst the student population. The pantry was a response to Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s “No Student Goes Hungry Program” which ensures all CUNY and SUNY students in need have stigma-free access to food. New York is the first state in the U.S to have such an extensive program in place for combating hunger on college campuses, and QC is proud to champion such a noble venture.
The Office of Student Development and Leadership, which spearheaded and sponsored the initiative, worked tirelessly to create a food service that addressed the utmost needs of its students. For the Director of Student Life, Dwayne Jones, it was crucial that every logistical decision made during the implementation process was a reflection of the opinions vocalized by QC students themselves.
Two of the standout requests made to Jones included the adamancy of locating the pantry in a convenient area and not mandating any financial eligibility requirements.
Jones knew the basement of the Student Union was an ideal location because it is “a building designed entirely to cater to students”. He also wanted it to be in “a judgment-free zone so that anyone could feel comfortable walking in and out”.
Part of the effort to make the pantry a safe space also included the choice for it be accessible to all registered students. This was done with the hopes of eliminating the invasive process involved in investigating a student’s background to determine if their situation is “valid” enough.
The success of the pantry during its first cycle is largely due to Monica Lival, a Program Coordinator, who has been very proactive about listening to the feedback given by students. The pantry “started out with simple non-perishable foods, but has expanded to non-dairy and gluten-free products out of respect for individuals with dietary restrictions.”
The pantry also gives students the opportunity to purchase fresh produce from local farmer’s markets via “green bucks”, as well as meals from the cafeteria.
The experience of running such an impactful food service has been beyond fulfilling for Linval. The most exciting part of her job is “the daily interaction with students” who come to trust her as a support system. Whether it be “helping someone get over the hump of the weekend” or “providing for someone who lost their wallet”, she is grateful to be of service in a multitude of ways.
Similarly for Jones, “it’s knowing that the pantry is serving students and their families in such an enormous manner”. He loves that students in need “ have a reliable place to stop by if their cabinet at home is empty on a Saturday”.
Jones and Linval hope that as time progresses, usage of the pantry increases and the stigma attached to it disappears. They also look forward to expanding the resources provided to meet the unique concerns of the students here at QC.
The pantry would not function without all the support it has received from The Carroll and Milton Petrie Foundation, Jennifer Jarvis’ office, NYPIRG, Hillel, Student Government (SA), John Carlson(Student life events manager & LGBTQI+ program coordinator) , GLASA, Greek Life, Fitzgerald Gym staff, Debrah Sarria Herrera, Stephen Paltoo from Ascend, Vivian Quan from Student life, Anthony Ogata , FNES, CUNY SEEK, and CUNY EDGE. Linval and Jones are incredibly grateful for every individual that has played a role in the success of the pantry.
If you are a student facing food insecurity or would like to help those who are, feel free to contact KnightsTable@qc.cuny.edu or call (718) 997-3977. For all other information regarding the pantry and its services, visit www.knightstablefoodpantry.org.