For students still in Rochester, the Food Pantry is in full swing. In the first floor of Wilson Commons, the Pantry is stocked with free canned goods, dry goods, and other nonperishables.
During normal operations, the Pantry is only open to students in the College of Arts, Science and Engineering, but in the face of COVID-19 its reach has extended to all students at UR, Warner graduate student and food pantry coordinator Jordan Ratzlaff said in an interview.
The Pantry has shifted from a supermarket style — where students are able to visit the pantry and browse the shelves for up to five items that they would like — to what’s called a grocery bag format.
A student can place an order up to midnight the night before pick-up through the Pantry’s CCC page, and select from a routinely updated list which items you would prefer to see in your grocery bag.
“It’s not a direct order form — students aren’t gonna get everything that they click,” Ratzlaff said. “We just want to gauge what they would like so that we can provide them with food that they’re actually going to eat. The last thing I want to do is put food items in a student’s grocery bag that they’re not actually going to eat, that someone else would have.”
The Pantry is also able to fill gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan, Kosher, and Hallal orders.
“I think it’s good for students to know that [if they] have dietary restrictions, we are able to serve them, and if we feel like we’re lacking, we’ll work with them to get food that they can eat,” she added.
Both normally and during our current circumstances, there is no limit to the amount of times a student can use the Food Pantry. But the Pantry [supervisors] will step in if they notice a student is a frequent visitor.
“We do […] make sure they’re on someone else’s radar, in case they might need an extra reach out,” Laura Ballou, director of the Campus Center and Assistant Dean of Student Life Operations, said. “If they’re facing food insecurities they might be facing other challenges, and so we just want to make sure that they’re well-connected in other ways.”
Students are able to pick their bags up by reserving a 30-minute window during the Pantry’s modified business hours of 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Monday, Thursday, and Friday. A standard grocery bag comes with 7-10 items.
The Pantry has certainly proven itself necessary. On an average week last semester, Pantry workers saw about 30-40 students come in. From March 23 (when they first opened the Pantry to all students across the University) to April 10, the Pantry gave out 175 grocery bags, averaging 58 bags a week.
The Pantry has been able to serve this many students primarily from donations. During normal operations, departments will often hold drives in their own offices.
“That’s probably the biggest place we’re missing donations from right now, because offices cannot have physical food drives for us right now,” Ballou said.
The Food Pantry also accepts monetary donations and maintains an Amazon wishlist of food items they need, which are their two biggest sources of donations. Both of these are still up and running, for those who are willing and able to provide support.