Special to The Press
NEW BRITAIN - Maria’s Place, Central Connecticut State University’s community food pantry, is battling the problem of food insecurity on college campuses.
The food pantry is a free service for all current CCSU students, faculty and staff who need food assistance. Visits to the food pantry remain strictly confidential. All volunteers are required to maintain privacy for those visiting the facility.
Last fall, a ribbon-cutting ceremony was held to recognize the reopening of the pantry at its new location in the basement of the Robert C. Vance Academic Center.
Maria’s Place is named after Maria A. Alvarez. Alvarez worked at CCSU for more than 32 years. Alvarez was a fixture in her local food pantry in New Britain.
Maria’s Place was originally located at the Newman House on Paul Manafort Drive. A location that was significantly smaller and off-campus.
“When Dr. Toro became CCSU’s new president and heard about the pantry she was very supportive and wanted to create a space on campus. It was important to be on campus - that way it’s more centralized, people could see the pantry, and we could get more support,” said the pantry coordinator Freddy Rios.
Rios has done much research in the sector of food insecurity. He said food insecurity is on the rise, especially on college campuses.
“Every semester there has been more people coming to the pantry, both first time visitors and returning visitors, which means there is a group of students that is food insecure,” said Rios.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is one of the largest anti-hunger safety nets in the country. Only about 18 percent of college students are eligible for SNAP while only 3 percent take advantage of SNAP’s benefits.
In order to qualify for SNAP, college students must work at least 20 hours per week.
Rios knows that Marias’s Place isn’t going to end food insecurity on campus, but he hopes to push the problem in the right direction.
“The pantry isn’t here to solve the problem of food insecurity, it’s here to alleviate it,” said Rios.
Rios hopes that eventually the pantry could work with the city of New Britain and partner up to serve the community of New Britain as a whole.
The food pantry operates on the CCSU Community Pantry Values. Maria’s Place believes access to food is a human right and everyone should be treated with respect and dignity.
The pantry is located in the Robert C. Vance Academic Center and is accessible through the Lower Level Entrance through Parking Lot T.
Maria’s Place is open Mondays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Fridays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. For more information on Maria’s place visit compassion.ccsu.edu/foodpantry/.