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Power of SUNY

Using Computer Science to Serve Thousands of Meals

Massive Impact - Feeding hundreds of New York families by using computer science

In the spirit of the Power of SUNY, Cayuga Community College‘s commitment to impacting New York is clear. Among the College’s many organizational partners, like AmeriCorps, is Calvary Food Pantry, an Auburn, NY food pantry. Recent Cayuga Community College graduate Ed Onori has capitalized on his computer science skills adopted at the college to help the pantry excel in its mission — and ultimately serve over 10,000 meals every month to the Central New York community.

Lately, the pantry has witnessed an increase in their service level to meet the needs of their community. The evolving demand naturally calls for innovative solutions. In this case, Nancy Sheffield, executive director of Calvary Food Pantry, saw a need for a database to move toward a digital record-keeping system. Calvary applied for and received a $10,000 grant for building their own technological capacity, which included equipment and labor.

The Calvary Food Pantry's Garden, A Source of Fresh Local Produce

The Calvary Food Pantry garden, a source of fresh local produce

When thinking of who could best help her as computer systems manager, Nancy thought of Cayuga Community College. She has hosted a number of student volunteers from Cayuga in the past, and has been pleased with the work they have done. She then contacted Sheila Myers, Coordinator of the College’s Experiential Learning Initiatives, and gave her a description of the type of position they were looking to hire.

“The Calvary Food Pantry has been a partner with us in the past, hosting an AmeriCorps student at one of their community gardens that provides fresh food to the food pantry,” said Sheila Myers. “So when they went to get a grant for this database program, they immediately thought of Cayuga as a potential source of student and faculty support.”

Sheila passed along the information to Lorraine Miller, Professor of Computer Science, who has recommended students to employers and non-profit agencies before. Lorraine thought of Ed Onori to fill the need. Ed graduated in May from Cayuga with an Associate in Applied Science, specializing in Computer Information Systems. This course of study led him to take classes with Professor Miller, who immediately thought of Ed as someone who could benefit from the position.

“It seemed like a good fit for Ed, I’ve known him for a long time. He is a responsible, diligent student and has a great grasp of database management,” said Miller. “His database skills are valuable in the workplace and these skills are difficult for lot of students to master.”

Ed’s work on the database at the Calvary Food Pantry started right after his graduation. The database will make all of the pantry’s records digital, tracking the clients of the food pantry and what social services they are receiving in order to serve them better. The accuracy of the database will also improve tracking demographics and help in making sure rules are being followed. Nancy Sheffield is very happy with Ed’s work and hopes that after the database is completed it will serve as a model for other Cayuga County food pantries.

“I personally feel this job and subsequent program is an invaluable opportunity for me as a college student to start on the path into the workforce by not only building my own resume but also making contacts and dealing with real world problems that really expands on the education that I’ve gone through,“ said Ed.

The partnership and work of Ed, the Calvary Food Pantry, and Cayuga Community College is an example of the type of partnerships and exchange of resources that students, community partners, and faculty across the SUNY system take part in every day.


Around the state in the towns and cities that call SUNY schools their own, the areas that are in and around our campuses share experience, resources, and people to foster a sense of close and caring community. This often includes students and professors working with the larger community to lend support. Whether it’s students volunteering at local charities, professors lending expertise to causes, or local community members coming to campus for an event or access to higher education, SUNY colleges are important hubs within the 64 communities that they are an integral part of. 


Written by Will Donovan

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  • Dan Schultz says:

    Great article Lorraine. Congratulations. Nice to have some good PR given our current situation. Keep up the good work. Best regards,
    Dan Schultz

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