Food insecurity on campus and The Pantry’s work to destigmatize the issue

The Pantry & Resident Assistants hosted a homemade soup lunch in Court 17’s community lounge on Nov. 19 in an effort to both raise awareness around food insecurity and the resources available to students facing this, but also to help destigmatize the reality of being food insecure and the use of such resources. 

“[It] provided students an opportunity to share a home cooked meal with one another by using ingredients commonly found in the Pantry,” said Nedralani Mailo, the program support supervisor at the Center for Equity and Inclusion. “The dish was really delicious and made by one of our Pantry workers. We hope that through example, we can share delicious meals using Pantry items. Through this, we hope we can normalize the use of The Pantry for our student population.”

The Pantry is a program here on campus that provides free nutritious and culturally relevant food, as well as hygiene products, to all UW Tacoma students. The goal is to support students who may be unable to obtain basic needs for themselves and their families. For this program, the Center for Equity and Inclusion — who oversees The Pantry — partners with Nourish Pierce County in order to provide these necessities to the student body. 

One student worker at The Pantry said that they are thankful for The Pantry because they have been able to access fresh and nutritious foods for their family.

Beyond their typical services, the CEI has partnered with several other organizations on campus to put on Pantry Drives to collect more items to stock their shelves and to raise awareness of the program. One such drive is going on right now, and ends Dec. 4. There are boxes located around campus for students, faculty and staff donations. Both student and combined faculty/staff boxes are located in Cherry Parkes, the Center for Service and Leadership, Dougan, The Y Center and West Coast Grocery. 

There is a competition between students and staff for bragging rights, as well as a competition between the Registered Student Organizations, with the winning organization receiving an additional $100.00 maximum limit to their RSO Operations Fund for the school year.

An initial survey back in 2013 showed that on UWT’s campus, food insecurity affected roughly 30 percent of the student population. 

Back in the 2016–2017 academic year, The Pantry had a total of 878 total visits. Moving up from there, the 2017–2018 academic year saw a total of 2010 total visits. In the 2018–2019 academic year, that number continued to rise all the way to 2904 visits. In just the beginning months of this school year, The Pantry has already seen a total of 547 visits. 

When asked why she thought this growth trend was occurring, Mailo attributed it to both a mix of increased awareness of the service as well as growing need for the service among the population of students and as such would like to see another, more representative survey done of the student population. 

The Pantry services may be utilized once per week and students must bring their UW student ID or any information reflecting current UWT enrollment. Students can stop by during weekly drop-in hours; The Pantry is open Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Students can also fill out an online food request form to ensure that any student that needs this service is able to access it. 

If you do not have a need to utilize the Pantry’s service, but would like to help out by donating, then here are some guidelines set out by The Pantry for any and all donations.The Pantry accepts all food and hygiene item donations. However, it is important to note that they are unable to accept items that are damaged, expired or open. They do have a refrigerator and a freezer which allows them to store perishable items such as produce and dairy products. 

They also ask that people are mindful with any donations and to ensure that you keep the students in mind when donating. When a drive is not happening, and boxes are not located around campus, items can always be dropped off directly at The Pantry. 

For monetary donations, you can visit The Pantry’s page on UWT’s website and click the button that says “Donate Here!”.