Tucked in a corner on the bottom floor of Wilson Commons, the food pantry — previously operated only during winter and summer holidays — is open for business twice a week in Wilco 105.
The idea for a food pantry was born two years ago, when staff from the Summer Initiative Office and the International Engagement Office hosted the first winter and summer food share programs, to positive student reception.
From June 10 to Aug. 15, 2019, the pantry was used over 287 times by more than 90 unique students, said food pantry coordinator Jordan Ratzlaff.
“The college really wanted to figure out how we could do something more longstanding, and that’s when I got involved with the process,” Assistant Dean and Student Life Operations Director Laura Ballou said.
The food pantry is built to benefit students from low-income families whose meal plans do not meet all their needs, Ballou said.
“Some students make a decision because of finances,” she said, “to go on a meal plan [that provides] a meal maybe three to four times a week.”
Typically, students on these meal plans have other sources of finances to adequately source the rest of their meals.
“Some of our students, they don’t have that option, so they’re going hungry,” Ballou said. “Those are the students that we’re trying to serve.”
Although its target audience is specific, the pantry is need-blind and free for all undergraduate and graduate students in the School of Arts, Science, and Engineering, according to its web page. Any student with ID can pick up to six items on each visit.
The food pantry is sustained by donations and food drives, Ratzlaff said. A cleanout of the Hillside Market at the end of last spring semester yielded over 400 pounds of food donations. The pantry currently stocks non-perishables like cereals, pasta, and canned goods.
For now, the food pantry is still in its trial period and doesn’t have many students visiting. Sophomore and SA senator Summer Mills serves as the connection between the food pantry and low-income students.
“I explain to them what it is about and get feedback from them,” she said. “Since it’s quite new, we are trying not to broadcast it too quickly. Maybe we will promote it later on.”
The food pantry operates Mondays and Thursdays from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., and Fridays from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.