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February 6, 2019

Student-Founded Food Pantry Serves Over a Hundred People Weekly

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Bread N Butter, a food pantry founded and run by a graduate student, has been tackling the issue of food insecurity since September by providing free cooked meals to the campus community.

The food pantry, which is currently operating out the space that occupied Anabel’s Grocery, draws from excess food from on-campus dining halls and Friendship Donations Network, a local organization that redistributes food to prevent food waste.

“In addition to food from FDN, Statler Hotel also donates a lot of food that they overproduce,” Gloria Coicou grad, the program’s founder, told The Sun. “They donate tons of food for students. We also get prepared food from Statler and Telluride House. That’s another thing students love: the food is already cooked and prepared.”

Coicou told the Sun that 22 students showed up on the first day of the pantry, which was held at the Big Red Barn. Over 80 people showed up to the next week’s food pantry. From there, word of mouth spread quickly. Coicou estimates that the pantry now serves 150 to 170 people per week.

As pantry attendance grew, space became an issue. Each week, Coicou collected food from local stores and restaurants throwing away their inventory due to overproduction or missed sell-by dates and drove the food in her car to the pantry.

Over winter break, Anke Wessels, executive director for the Center for Transformative Action, reached out to Coicou and offered Anabel’s Grocery as a temporary space for the food pantry, as the store would be closed for the semester.

The move gave the pantry access to new resources, such as refrigerators and shelving space.

In an effort to keep shelves stocked and utilize the new space, the pantry is also conducting an ongoing food drive sponsored by Cornell Dining.

“You can find all our donations boxes in retail places like Bear Necessities, Jansen’s, Goldie’s, all those places. We have faculty and staff involved hosting boxes and bringing items down to the pantry,” Coicou said.

Coicou first began tackling food insecurity when she founded the Healthcare Students Association in September 2018. She said that she was inspired by posts in a GroupMe where students share details about free food on campus; the group currently has over 3,400 members.

“We saw that [food insecurity] was a huge issue on the free food GroupMe…students would ask what other students are doing if they don’t have a meal plan. There was a lot of questions about financial aid covering meal plans,” Coicou told the Sun. “I know that there are resources outside of Cornell’s campus for food insecure people and I was trying to figure out a way to bring some of those [resources] to campus.”

Currently, Cornell is trying to establish an official on-campus food pantry in collaboration with Coicou and Bread N Butter. Cornell also hopes to work with the Food Bank of the Southern Tier to maintain the supply of food.

However, Coicou expressed some concern about what the partnership could mean for Bread N Butter’s open access philosophy.

“No one has to prove that they are in need,” said Cociou. “It’s more or less ‘if you’re hungry come and get some food.’ Once Cornell takes over, there might be certain requirements.”

Bread N Butter currently operates out of the space previously utilized by Anabel’s Grocery and is open Wednesdays 4 – 6 p.m. and Fridays 9 – 11 a.m. In the future, Cociou hopes to expand hours of operation.