Lou and Jane Amendola have empathy for college students experiencing food insecurity.
“I can remember back in my days in college, most of the student-athletes were always hungry because of the calories you burn all day,” said Lou, who attended college in San Diego. “But all students, I think, face food insecurity from time to time. … It’s nice to have someplace where students can go to grab something or make something, which puts a little less pressure on them, so they can do well in school.”
A generous gift from the Amendolas will make an impactful difference in helping to reduce food insecurity for students at Fresno State. A $1.5 million endowment will ensure the financial sustainability of the Student Cupboard’s operations in perpetuity.
In recognition of their gift, the cupboard will be renamed The Amendola Family Student Cupboard.
“The positive impact of the Amendolas’ transformational gift on our students, the future leaders of our region, is immeasurable,” said Interim President Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval. “We deeply appreciate Lou and Jane’s generosity in helping to remove barriers to our students’ success in their academic endeavors.”
Watch: The Amendolas Share Why They Support Fresno State
Free Fresh Food and Hygiene Items
The student cupboard provides Fresno State students who are challenged by food insecurity with free fresh and nonperishable food items and hygiene products. It is one of the initiatives under the campus Food Security Project to increase student access to nutritious food.
When Jane heard about the student cupboard, she said, “I was just genuinely excited. I didn’t even know that kind of service would exist on a campus. To think that any future students, when they learn that the cupboard exists, will think ‘they care about us if we have a down day or a rough time.’ I think it’s a win-win for the students and the University.”
Food insecurity is a daily concern for an overwhelming number of Fresno State students. Since the student cupboard opened its doors in November 2014, it has had nearly 250,000 total visits, serving 28,000 students.
Nearly 6,000 Students Used Cupboard in 2019-20
More than 43% of Fresno State students surveyed said they had experienced some level of food insecurity in the past year, according to a 2017 California State University study. During the 2019-20 academic year, 5,991 students visited the cupboard, totaling 40,670 visits.
In recent years, a month-long March Match Up fundraising campaign provided funding to keep the student cupboard operating from year to year. Last year’s March Match Up raised $327,275, just as the COVID-19 pandemic hit and presented an urgency to support students as their needs increased.
“Our students can focus more fully on their studies if they aren’t worried about basic needs such as their next meal,” said Dr. Carolyn Coon, dean of students and acting vice president for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management at Fresno State. “We want to give all of our students every opportunity to succeed. We couldn’t do that without support from University supporters like the Amendola family.”
Two of the Amendolas’ three children attended Fresno State — “We have one Bruin and two ’Dogs,” Lou said. So as parents, Lou and Jane know firsthand the impact that Fresno State has on future Valley leaders.
“The University plays a large role in this Central Valley. It’s the largest economic engine that we have,” said Lou, owner and CEO of Valley Wide Beverage. He went on to say that Fresno State plays “a pivotal role in turning out teachers and business people. So it’s an important institution for the Central Valley.”
Amendola Family Believes in Paying It Forward
The Amendolas have been generous long-time donors to Fresno State Athletics, in addition to the Student Cupboard as one of the matching donors in last year’s March Match Up.
And their philanthropy is well-noted in the Fresno region. In 2019, the California Valley Chapter of Association of Fundraising Professionals honored Lou as that year’s Outstanding Philanthropist.
For more information on how to support the basic needs of students at this time, contact David Hembree at (559) 278-5052 or firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about The Amendola Family Student Cupboard and its services, contact Jessica Medina at (559) 278-6621.
Contributed by Fresno State News