On-campus food pantry expected to open within next two weeks

UB pantry aims to tackle food insecurity

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Students struggling to afford food will soon have a way to access food for free through UB’s first on-campus food pantry. 

UB departments teamed up this summer to develop the pantry, which is set to open within the next two weeks, according to Sherri Darrow, director of Health Promotion.

Darrow said her office estimates roughly 25% of UB students struggle with lack of access to food. Last summer, UB established a food pantry task force, which included members of the Student Association and the Office of Inclusive Excellence among other UB departments and organizations. While the task force is still solidifying some of its final details –– including the name –– Darrow said the pantry will function as a “grocery bag program.” This will allow students to place orders online and pick up the food at the Health Promotion office located at Student Union 114. 

Darrow said students can submit a shopping list online at the Student Life Gateway to pick up within 48 hours. SA President Gunnar Haberl said orders will be assigned to numbers rather than students' names. Pick-up times will be 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, or by special arrangement, Darrow said. 

The task force created the program with accessibility in mind, as many students facing food insecurity do not have access to transportation, according to Darrow. 

“Having options for access to food is important to meet the needs of our diverse students and their diverse situations…,” Darrow said. “Any UB student who is dealing with food insecurity is encouraged to use the program.”

Jared Strohl, a graduate fellow at the Office of Inclusive Excellence, was on the task force and said it tried to get as much student feedback as possible to best fit students’ needs.

He studied low-income communities and urban farming for his dissertation, which he said was his first experience seeing the importance of food pantries first-hand. 

Strohl said he’d like to look into including fresh produce in the future, but first wants to learn what would work best for the students who use the pantry. 

Haberl, also a member of the task force, said his top priority in the committee has been making sure the food pantry is “done correctly.” 

He said, although there are off-campus food pantries, such as the University Presbyterian Church Pantry, it is “critical for students to have a welcoming place on campus” to turn to.

“I think UB has always used the excuse of having an off-campus food pantry as their food pantry,” Haberl said. “It took a lot of conversations, a lot of data from everyone on the committee to collect and share [for] the UB administration [to understand] how important it was and what a need there was for it on our campus.”

A. Scott Weber, vice president for Student Life, said he hopes the food pantry will help the “many students” who face food insecurity at UB. He said this will rely heavily on food drives and “philanthropic donors,” but he expects the pantry’s outreach will grow in the future.

“While we are starting with a pilot to help understand how to operationalize the recommendations from the Food Pantry Task Force, it is my expectation that our ability to serve a greater and greater number of students in need will be realized over time.” 

Haberl said he hopes to see the food pantry grow to provide students with more needs, such as toiletries.

Strohl said he also hopes the pantry can provide additional non food-related benefits for UB students.

“Who knows, maybe this could even end up helping with things we don’t realize … ,” Strohl said. “Maybe this ends up actually helping [students] graduate or do better and get better grades. That’s my hope –– that there are other benefits to this that aren’t just about food.”

Jacklyn Walters is a co-senior news editor and can be reached at Jacklyn.Walters@ubspectrum.com and on Twitter @JacklynUBSpec.

JACKLYN WALTERS


 Jacklyn Walters is a junior communication major. She enjoys bringing up politics at the dinner table and seeing dogs on campus.