“I’m feeding these students, can I get some help?” Gloria Coicou grad asked Cornell after launching Bread N Butter, an on-campus, student-run food pantry in fall 2018.
First founded in Coicou’s car, Bread N Butter now exists in a temporary space in Anabel’s Grocery. The food pantry offers free food and prepared meals to students on campus. It functions as a resource to all Cornell students, both offering free food and decreasing food waste on campus.
With its newly established partnership with the University, the pantry looks to continue expanding, rescuing more food and serving more food-insecure students in the fall.
Since its creation, the group has grown and adapted to fit the community’s needs. This has included creating more leadership positions, changing the pantry times and increasing outreach.
The changes have allowed the pantry to expand the number of people it serves each day, increasing from just 22 people on its first day to about 100 on most days, according to Pantry Director Laura Yang ’19.
“We’ve definitely made a lot of progress this semester in terms of working out the logistics, sort of figuring out exactly how we want to run the pantry most efficiently,” Yang told The Sun.
The University’s help has already been “instrumental” in the success of the food pantry, founder Coicou told The Sun in a phone interview, specifically Cornell Dining and The Office of Student and Campus Life. The Center for Transformative Action has provided them with its current space in Anabel’s Grocery. University partners have also helped with supplies like boxes and signs for the food drives and coolers for transporting rescued food.
The new Cornell partnership will also allow the pantry to evolve and become more established, with plans to find a permanent space, according to Coicou. Anabel’s Grocery is expected to be “fully operational” in Fall 2019 according to Anke Wessels, director of CTA.
“Cornell is championing this initiative,” Coicou said. “They’re going to renovate a space; they’re going to open it up.”
Coicou said one major concern over partnering with Cornell was that the pantry would lose its central mission of fellowship and its status as a non-stigmatized space. However, the University has agreed to keep the pantry student-run and open to all without eligibility requirements.
Bread N Butter currently has 13 donation box locations across campus, where anybody can donate pantry items. Yang said she has been surprised by the generosity and willingness to help with the pantry’s efforts.
“I had some donations dropped off at the pantry — it was just a woman from the community who had heard about our efforts and had some food she wanted to donate,” Yang said.
In addition to the boxes, Bread N Butter has a partnership with Friendship Donations Network, a local organization that redistributes food over the county to prevent food waste. They also have connections with various corporations in Ithaca, including Wegmans, Tops and Panera Breads through FDN.
The leaders of the pantry have also embarked on their own food rescue missions from various Cornell eateries. Since March 8, Bread N Butter has recovered over 600 pounds of food from five eateries that would otherwise be thrown away, according to Coicou.
“What’s really unique about Cornell and this food pantry is that no one else in the U.S. is doing this,” Coicou said. “There is not one food pantry in the U.S. that is doing all the efforts we’re doing to feed our food insecure students.”
“I’m excited to see how the pantry will grow,” Yang said about the future of the pantry. “I really want to see everything running super smoothly, super efficiently … I do know there are some people who don’t know about the existence of the pantry, so [we’ll be] making sure this is something that’s accessible to as many people as possible.”
There are big plans ahead as Bread N Butter looks to capitalize on the Cornell partnership, including expanding to rescue from more eateries more often and hosting more events.
For example, on Tuesday, April 30 at 10 a.m. on the Law School patio, Bread N Butter will host an event with Food Bank of the Southern Tier to also provide perishable items. In similar past events, students walked away with nearly 50 pounds of food each.
“Cornell is realizing there’s a need,” Coicou said. “We’re here to fill it.”
Bread N Butter currently operates out of the space previously utilized by Anabel’s Grocery in Anabel Taylor Hall and is open Mondays from 12:30 – 1:30 p.m. and Wednesdays from 3:30 – 4:30 p.m.