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Purple Pantry Locks Students Out

By Nathaniel DePaul

Photo Credit - Nathaniel DePaul / ASP

Students waiting by the locked Purple Pantry

A group of around a dozen students were stranded outside of UAlbany’s Purple Pantry in the Campus Center on Friday afternoon.

The group, consisting of students looking to use the pantry services and the volunteers who help facilitate it, were unable to get in, as the doors were locked tight, despite the pantry being scheduled to be open at that time.

“We’re just kind of hoping for the best at this point,” said Purple Pantry volunteer Megan Rees. “We’ve been here around 40 minutes, and we’re hoping someone will show up with a key soon.”

Across the hallway from the pantry is the office of Lily Rasmus, the Purple Pantry Coordinator, and one of a select few keyholders.

Her office was empty and dark.

However, there was still hope; another person who held the key, the Assistant Dean of Students and head of Off-Campus Student Services, Luke Rumsey, was just downstairs in his office.

But a trip to his Campus Center office turned up empty, as Mr. Rumsey was out at a meeting at the time, and he had the key with him.

While the miscommunication that led to no one being available to open the door might seem minor, it can have some big impacts on the students who rely on the pantry.

According to a previous campus survey, about one in three UAlbany students said they skip meals to stretch their weekly budgets.

It was data like this that inspired Governor Cuomo to pass his “No Student Goes Hungry Initiative” in 2018, which mandated the addition of a food pantry on all public college campuses.

UAlbany has had a food pantry since 2016, which was previously on Empire Commons. After the passage of Cuomo’s mandate, the Department of Student Affairs expanded it and relocated to the Campus Center to increase accessibility.

The pantry is open four hours a day Monday through Friday, with the particular hours shifting depending on the day.

“We figure we’ll be open about 20 hours a week, and we’ll do it to keep with the class schedule,” said Sally D’Alessandro, Director of Student CARE Services in a prior statement about the pantry’s schedule. “Part day hours, part early evening hours just to make sure that we’re hitting enough times for students who may have classes.”

This incident occurred at a crucial time right before the weekend, when students will try to take home enough food to get through the weekend.

The frustration among those waiting was tangible; one student sighed as he walked back down the hall, unable to stay any longer, as his afternoon class was beginning shortly.

The pantry is a great resource to students, but if it is implemented in a way that a small miscommunication can leave students hungry, then maybe it’s time to make a change.

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