By Jennifer Jones, communications director, Bennion Community Service Center
There was no ribbon cutting, dignitary speeches or media frenzy. But the opening of the new Feed U pantry this month could be life-changing for some University of Utah students.
Kassy Keen, program manager at the Center for Student Wellness, says a 2013 study indicated more than half of the students surveyed were worried about where their next meal would come from. Keen says, “While we can’t generalize this survey to our entire campus population, it provides a glimpse into how significant an issue this problem could be for our students.”
In response to that need, the U opened an on-campus food bank in October 2014. A closet-sized room in the Campus Store was lined with shelves filled with packaged foods. All that changed this month when the Feed U pantry moved into partially vacant kitchen space in the Union basement. Students can access the pantry from the Union’s computer lab area.
Chuck Weaver, food service director for the U, says the move from the bookstore to the Union has been in the planning for a long time. The bookstore space was small and lacked refrigeration equipment. The new pantry location has refrigeration and freezer equipment, along with a loading dock. Weaver says now the pantry will be able to handle fresh food deliveries. Refrigerators will allow food leftover from Dining Services’ catered events to be portioned out, refrigerated and then distributed to students. The space also meets health department requirements.
“This is stage one,” Weaver says. He anticipates the pantry will grow as Dining Services shifts its food donations from downtown food banks to the campus location.
Keen says there’s a nationwide trend among college campuses to address food insecurity as students try to work full time, raise families and often live paycheck to paycheck. She says students have to decide whether to eat or pay for school-related expenses. Having help right on campus solves time and transportation problems. Anyone with a university ID number (uNID) can use the pantry at no cost.
“The Feed U Pantry serves as an accessible, safe space that students can get this basic need met so they can focus on the critical reasons they are at the University of Utah,” Keen says.
To volunteer at the pantry, contact Nick Knight here.
FEED U FOOD PANTRY AT A GLANCE
- Hours: Monday and Wednesday, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
- Location: Union Building Computer Lab area
- Opened: October 2014
- Served to date: 996 students, staff, faculty and their families
- Distributed approx. 5,600 lbs. of food
- Moved: approx. 2,100 lbs. of food