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Cornell Dining boosts community outreach amid the coronavirus pandemic

The dining team is working with a local food bank to help keep area families fed.
Photograph courtesy of Cornell Dining

Cornell University has teamed up with a local food bank to gather and distribute meals for families facing food insecurity as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

In recent months, the Ithaca, N.Y., university’s dining team has been putting in weekly orders with the Food Bank of the Southern Tier to fill shelves at its campus food pantry, which opened in October.

However, since the end of March, Cornell Dining has increased the size of these orders—by as much as 15,000 pounds of food—to help ensure the community beyond its campus has access to adequate nutrition during this trying time.

“It’s more challenging for families to access food right now, especially families who are low income and usually use the emergency food system, such as pantries and meal sites,” Amanda Palme, programs and partnerships manager for the Food Bank of the Southern Tier, said in a statement. “With schools being closed, children are home, and a lot of families rely on schools to feed their children at least twice a day. And many people have found themselves out of work.”

The orders Cornell places are sent to the Robert Purcell Community Center, where dining team members assist with unloading and repacking food. They put together meal packages that could feed a family of four for three days, containing items such as cereal, soup, rice, orange juice and shelf-stable milk. These packages are then distributed to the community two days each week at the Greater Ithaca Activities Center.

Cornell DiningPhotograph courtesy of Cornell Dining

“People feel so out of control in so many ways,” said Mark Miller, Cornell Dining manager. “They want something they can control and help with. Especially for people who remain on campus, our staff, this really gives them a meaningful way to be involved and feel like they’re making a difference.” 

In addition to these efforts, the Cornell Food Pantry remains open as a resource for students living on or off campus.

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