Harvest Fest in November of last year. Photo: The Knights Table Food Pantry

Queens College Receives New Grants to Fund Campus Organizations

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On January 31st, The Carroll and Milton Petrie Foundation approved $70,000 in grants awarded to Queens College. The funds will be divided between two campus organizations: The Knights Table Food Pantry receiving $20k and the Queens College Service Corps (QCSC) receiving $50k.

This continues Petrie’s long standing partnership with CUNY, which aims to cultivate student wellness and success. Last year, the foundation awarded over $1.2 million to CUNY schools to cover students’ emergency financial situations and combat food insecurity. QC’s grant comes as budget cuts have resulted in major layoffs at Queens College and further cuts are proposed to the CUNY system.

The Knights Table Food Pantry is open to all CUNY students for walk-ins and appointments, no need-based application necessary. According to the Carroll and Milton Petrie Foundation’s financial breakdowns, the pantry has applied to and been awarded a $20k “basic needs” grant for the past two years, this year being no exception.

Arianna Livreri, associate director of civic engagement spoke to The Knight News and said: “When we apply for a grant, we are only allowed to use it for what it is approved to be used for.” Though spending was previously limited to purchasing food from Food Bank For New York City, “This year, The Knights Table Food Pantry is allowed to purchase feminine products with a small portion of this funding.”

She also shared that while nonperishable food items and feminine products are always available the pantry also hosts fresh produce events, dubbed Harvest Fests, on the first Wednesday of every month. The Petrie Foundation grant money will be used to purchase fresh products from GrowNYC, an environmental nonprofit dedicated to building community gardens and urban farms throughout New York City.

Food insecurity affects families year-round and the holidays can be especially hard. Thus, Livreri expressed that they were planning ahead, a portion of the funds will be used to purchase food gift cards. These will be given out for World Food Day in October and to buy 25 turkeys for November’s Holiday Turkey Raffle.

She said: “I am excited to continue this program as it assisted 20 students with having food for the holiday season.”

Along with looking to support basic needs, the Petrie Foundation’s mission includes getting students into strong job positions, hoping to lift some out of poverty. The Queens College Service Corps fits right into this.

The CUNY Service Corps was created in 2013, after Hurricane Sandy, with the goal to get students into nonprofits and government jobs that help New York City. With the program being an expensive year-long internship, however, CUNY pulled funding. Thus, Queens became one of the only CUNY schools to independently run the Service Corps after 2022, leaving the college to find the budget for it themselves.

Enter Cristina Di Meo, QCSC’s Experiential Education Director, who joined the organization in Spring 2023.

“Before I was here, I was at Guttman Community College, which is another CUNY, and they had a grant from Petrie as well, so I had a connection to the program officer,” Di Meo said. “They know our student population, their needs, so they agreed to help us.”

The Petrie Foundation grant will primarily go toward paying 12 student stipends in the next internship cohort, running between Fall 2024 to Spring 2025, Di Meo told The Knight News. In total, QCSC is anticipating between 20 and 25 students in the upcoming cohort, so resources may be coordinated by Associate Provost for Innovation and Student Success Nathalia Holtzman to cover the remaining stipends, Di Meo said.

Like the Knights Table Food Pantry, QCSC also had guidelines to adhere to with accepting the grant. As Di Meo shared that:

“One of them is to do professional development, to really help improve the students’ skills, to show [Petrie] where what they’re learning in the internship is helping them build those professional skills.”

QCSC holds monthly networking opportunities as a result, inviting alumni and professionals within students’ field of interest to speak with them on campus.

“We want that, where students are making connections with what they’re learning theoretically in the classroom with hands-on experiences,” Di Meo said. QCSC is also required to share evaluations with Petrie assessing students’ competencies to show how they are preparing to enter the workforce. “They wanna see that we’re really doing as much assessment as we can on the impact of the program,” Di Meo said.

As budget constraints have presented difficulty for programs throughout CUNY, grants from organizations like the Petrie Foundation make it possible to continue impacting the community.

Di Meo said to The Knight News: “These kinds of experiences, that’s what we want. We want it to really be a pivotal experience for [students].”

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