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Union stocks campus food pantry for the holidays

December 21, 2021

The union has a common refrain when calling for better treatment for faculty: “Our working conditions are students’ learning conditions.”

While this is certainly true, we know that students’ learning conditions also depend heavily on their own living conditions. Using extra funds saved during the COVID-19 pandemic that normally would go toward food for in-person meetings, CCSU-AAUP went grocery shopping to help replenish the campus’ food pantry before the holidays.

Research shows that college students – many of whom are considered “nontraditional,” juggling jobs, kids and more – often struggle with food insecurity. A survey done in fall 2019 found that nearly 40 percent of college students who responded had experienced food insecurity in the last month.

When looking for ways to build community outreach at the union, donating to Maria’s Place seemed like a no-brainer.

“Food insecurity is a big issue for our students and Maria’s Place serves as a resource for those CCSU students,” said Thomas Burkholder, president of the CCSU-AAUP chapter and chemistry professor at CCSU. “The Executive Committee reached out to Maria’s Place and asked them how we could best donate money and time to them.”

Maria’s Place was named after Maria A. Alvarez, who worked at CCSU for more than 32 years and was loved by all, said Radeana Hastings, who helps run the pantry. Alvarez also volunteered at her parish’s food pantry, which is why the campus named its food pantry after her.

The pantry serves CCSU students, faculty and staff. Over this past semester, it served 208 people, Hastings said.

“Access to food is a basic human right, and without it, students aren’t able to thrive and flourish,” Hastings said. “The Food Pantry is available to all members of the CCSU community, and thanks to generous donors, we are able to serve anyone in our CCSU family who needs the support.”

Around Thanksgiving time the chapter donated $1,250 worth of Stop and Shop gift cards to the pantry. Before the winter break, Burkholder and Michelle Malinowski, a CSU-AAUP staff member, went shopping armed with a list of desired items.

After filling two carts with pastas, snacks, peanut butter and other pantry items totaling nearly $300, they headed to Maria’s Place located at the lower level entrance to the Vance Academic Center.

Thanks to these donations and others, Hastings said they only need bottled water, toiletries and pet food right now.

Burkholder said the chapter plans to take more shopping trips to spend another $1,200 over the next few months, ensuring the pantry is stocked up when the peak donation times are over.

“We are looking for people to help us with shopping in the next couple months,” Burkholder said.

Those interested in helping out can contact Sinead Ruane at or 413-687-9205.