Food pantry ‘beefs up’ services

The food pantry offers a variety of canned goods. Vanguard Photo | Nicole Vogelpohl

SVSU’s food pantry celebrated its reopening in November 2019 after being relocated from its space in Gilbertson Hall.

“There was a need for that space for another initiative,” Dean of Students Sidney Childs said. “This allowed an opportunity to bring the food pantry to a more central location on campus.”

The food pantry was in the Student Affairs office until it was moved to Gilbertson Hall, Childs said. The pantry now resides in the Student Life Center.

“This is an opportunity to increase (the pantry’s) visibility, to remarket, to reintroduce it to the campus community,” Childs said. “It’s an opportunity to beef up the services provided.”

The pantry was run primarily by a committee until the addition of Julia Mohan, social work master’s student and food pantry coordinator, in July 2019.

“Childs decided it was an opportunity to give the pantry the devotion it deserves,” Mohan said.

Mohan described the lengthy process of relocating the pantry as including a lot of research and discussion.

“I researched best practices for pantries around Michigan and visited the campus of MSU to tour one of the first university pantries,” she said. “The existing members of the advisory board helped increase my knowledge of what the pantry was, how it was run and what their plans for the future were.”

The swipe system was reinstated. Swipes had been used in the past but were abandoned last year after students said they feared being able to be tracked by the system.

“This collects minimal data on the number of students using the pantry,” Mohan said.

Childs added that they were interested in seeing how many students use the pantry but in a noninvasive way.

“We don’t want to shame people,” he said. “Food insecurity is a constant issue at universities.”

Because the pantry is now staffed by Student Life employees, the hours have changed with its relocation. The pantry is now open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Pantry items continue to come largely from donations, but funds are also set aside for when staple items run out, Mohan said.

Childs said a lot of the pantry items are canned goods, like green beans, that students might not know what to do with.

“One of our goals is to have recipes available,” he said. “This would make it a little more of a service and help students understand how to use the available goods.”

He added that the pantry is considering offering cooking demonstrations or even classes at some point in the future.

“Our hope is that students are aware the pantry is available,” he said. “We don’t want students going hungry. It affects their work in the classroom. We want to make sure people have what they need.”

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