UWT helps students in need with The Pantry

UW Tacoma provides food items and hygiene products to students on campus through The Pantry. This resource is located in DOU 104 and is open to current UWT students Monday and Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Tuesday and Thursday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Students can stop by during these drop-in hours and take up to 10 food items and hygiene products per week. It was added to campus in 2014 after a campus-wide survey showed that 32 percent of students faced food insecurity.

Food insecurity is directly related to hunger — when a person does not know where their next meal will take place.

Christine Stevens, Master of Public Health, Ph.D. and associate professor of nursing and healthcare leadership conducted said survey in 2013 after noticing that students in her own classes were facing issues of homelessness and food insecurity. In 2011, she had given her class a similar survey.

“I believe that to understand where we are now you have to think historically. So my research is around food insecurity which is another word for hunger and homelessness among adolescents,” Stevens said. “About six years ago, I was having the students in my class fill out a survey what I could do in the community, and I was finding that 30 percent of the students in my class were homeless and food insecure.”

The results and high percentage of students affected sparked a thought: if students in her class were facing these issues, UWT students as whole must also be facing the same issues. Stevens provided every student on campus a questionnaire on the catalyst platform, and from the 10 percent of UWT students who participated, 32 percent responded back that they also faced food insecurity. “The national average for food insecurity is around 12 percent, and so the students at UWT were almost 15 percent higher and so I thought — we need to start with a food pantry,” Stevens said.

Stevens had a difficult time getting someone to agree that this was an issue the university needed to get involved in.

“I took the information to the director of student affairs here — he is no longer here — and I said, ‘Look at all the statistics, we need a food pantry and what can I do to help you,’” she said. “He said, ‘This is none of your business, we don’t want to work with you.’”

Stevens then took the information to local churches, who said they could assist in feeding those who came to them, but they also were struggling to support their own people. Previous administration also did not want to help Stevens in this endeavour.

When Stevens approached the Center of Equity and Inclusion about the need for a food support system on campus, they were the only ones interested.

“I walked in the door and I said ‘this is what I found’ and they said, ‘We have — a closet. Let’s start today,’” Stevens said. “If it wasn’t for the Center of Equity and Inclusion, we would not have a food pantry, we would not have student emergency aid. The hero of this story is the Center.”

While at the time of starting the UWT administration did not support The Pantry, the current administration has been supportive of backing the program as it runs now.

Nedralani Mailo, program support supervisor for the Center of Equity and Inclusion, is directly in charge of The Pantry. Mailo has broadened opportunities with The Pantry by partnering up with FISH food bank and increasing the hours of operation.

“According to our monthly report since the beginning of autumn quarter, we had 254 students utilize The Pantry,” Mailo said. “This number is not unique, but it definitely shows that students are utilizing The Pantry very frequently.”

Stevens is now currently constructing a second survey similar to the one given in 2013 to be given next quarter.

“We are planning to have The Pantry refurbished during winter break,” Mailo said. “We are in the hopes of possibly looking at other potential locations for the future, but in the meantime we will ensure that our current Pantry is catered to and ready for winter Quarter.”

To aid food insecurity and increase stock, The Pantry is also holding a campus wide food drive competition from Nov. 13 to Dec. 13. Donation bins can be found in the following places on campus: Dougan, UWY, Mattress Factory room 107 and the West Coast Grocery. Things such as food items, hygiene products, diapers and school supplies can be dropped off at The Pantry or in the various donation bins to be counted toward contest results.

This competition is students vs. staff and faculty to see which group can bring the most donations. The contest will be based on weight, and student organization donations will be combined with student donations to make one grand total. Bragging rights will go to the winner, and the Registered Student Organization that donates the most will be awarded $100 into their RSO Operations Fund.

“While I had a historical moment, the heroes of the piece are the staff of the Center, as well as Dr. Raynor,” Stevens said. “Dr. Raynor has fought really really hard. Otherwise [without her] I think this would have gone away.”

 

DETAILS

Date: Through Dec. 13
Donation Bin Locations: Dougan, UWY, MAT 107, West Coast Grocery
Competition: Students vs. staff & faculty

ITEMS ACCEPTED:
  • Rice
  • Cerial
  • Canned Goods
  • Oatmeal
  • Peanut Butter
  • School Supplies
  • Hygiene Products
  • Crackers
  • Pasta & sauce
  • Coffee
  • Diapers

 

ITEMS NOT ACCEPTED:
  • Damaged items
  • Opened items
  • Items in glass jars
  • Expired items
  • Unlabeled items
  • Home canned items
To request items to pick up at The Pantry, fill out a form at:
tacoma.uw.edu/thepantry

 

PHOTO BY LONG TRAN

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