Thanksgiving drive just one of many

Volunteers wait with loaded bags to distribute Thanksgiving food to Queensborough Community College’s food insecure students.

The Thanksgiving season inspires many groups to lead community food drives, but Queensborough Community College has been providing aid to the food insecure through the entire year.

The Bayside college hosted a Thanksgiving food distribution event on Nov. 24. Volunteers packaged and handed out totes stuffed with turkeys and other food items to a drive-thru line of students in need. A DJ played upbeat songs and the school’s tiger mascot danced along.

The Wednesday morning event was a larger version of what Queensborough had been doing once a month for over a year. 

“The need for food [and shelter], these are the reasons students drop out of school. It’s never about academics. It’s about all the other needs,” President Christine Mangino told the Chronicle.

Though the school shut down at the beginning of the pandemic, the Lucille A. Bova Food Pantry never stopped operations. Most days of the week, volunteers continued to collect and package food, which was distributed to students in need at the front gates of the school for their own safety. Once a month, the school would host a larger distribution similar to its Thanksgiving event.

Students were also given gift cards so they could buy their own groceries that fit their own needs at local supermarkets. Volunteers provided students with information about other food pantries, as well, so those who lived far from campus didn’t have to make the trip for a meal.

“That also kills me: That it costs them $5 round trip to go get a bag of food,” Mangino said.

According to Queensborough, 40 percent of its student population has indicated that they’ve lost income to due Covid-19, 40 percent have experienced food insecurity and 59 percent have experienced any basic need insecurity, such as clothing, housing, etc.

Hosting loud, happy, outdoor distributions offered students a safe way to collect food items, but it was also a form of de-stigmatizing asking for help, Mangino said. 

Queensborough also moved the location of the pantry from the back of a building to the front of campus. The Lucille A. Bova Food Pantry’s new home is now located by the front door of the glass Administration building.

A combination of the pandemic and the school’s effort to normalize visiting the pantry have resulted in an increase of patronage. The student population’s food insecurity has yet to improve, Mangino said.

According to a 2020 CUNY Health report, 50 percent of students surveyed worried they would run out of food before being able to purchase more. That is a 34 percent jump from 2018.

“We all agree, especially the day before Thanksgiving, that nobody should go hungry in this great city,” City Councilmember Barry Grodenchik (D-Oakland Gardens) said at the event.

Members of the community who wish to support students in need can donate online by visiting bit.ly/3cNS1SB.

Queensborough students suffering from food insecurity can visit bit.ly/3HQLCEr to learn more about the Lucille A. Bova Food Pantry.

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