New pantry tackles food insecurity on campus
February 10, 2022
This article won first place for in-depth reporting in the 2022 Collegiate Better Newspaper Contest sponsored by the Wisconsin Newspaper Association Foundation. Read more
Freddy’s Food Pantry has officially joined Rodli Hall in room 268 to help supply food and other necessities to faculty, staff and students of UWRF. It will operate Monday through Thursday 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The inspiration for opening a second food pantry on campus came to light when four students in the COMS308 Small Group Communications course last spring developed a plan of action for tackling food insecurity on campus. The foundational report for the food pantry explained that, “30.6% of students polled (n=438) limited what they ate to save money, and … 41.4% of the students polled (n=438) stated that they could not afford to eat balanced meals. If we extrapolate those numbers to our overall campus enrollment of 5268 (Fall 2021 enrollment) that means that far too many students face food insecurity - between 1600-2100 students.”
The location for the food pantry was decided because Rodli Hall holds many of the main student success services on campus. The Student Success Center and Honors Program is located right around the corner from the food pantry, which is ideal for students visiting those departments.
Kathleen Hunzer, the Interim Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Excellence and Student Success stated that she had wanted a food pantry on campus previously, but had issues with getting it up and running. She mentioned that Ian Stroud, the Director of Student Success, was interested in starting a campus food pantry as well. ”...so I knew he was interested and I knew I was interested… so we got it going on in CAFES, and we have these students who did this amazing report, so we kind of took it and launched it in Rodli.”
Managing the food pantry will be done mainly on a volunteer status. Honors students will be able to gain volunteer leadership experiences by helping run the food pantry. Hunzer said that, “We will have volunteers sitting at the front desk of Rodli 268, [who will be] writing to companies or brands asking for products, running to the River Falls Food pantry to restock, those kinds of things.” She is also hoping to utilize skills from marketing and communications students to promote the pantry by creating material such as posters to spread the message around campus.
Hunzer will be managing the volunteer coordination, and Stroud will be helping with daily operations, like receiving the room in Rodli and the food itself from the River Falls food pantry.
The majority of the food at Freddy’s Food Pantry will come from the River Falls food pantry. When the food shelf in AgSci started, it was mainly supplied by staff and faculty. They then began receiving weekly allotments of supplies to stock the shelf. Hunzer said, “Right now, everything's coming from the River Falls food pantry. We do have an account set up through our University Foundation for Freddy’s Pantry where monetary donations can be placed.” Hunzer believes that with money donations, they will be able to stock their shelves with more “buying potential” than receiving food donations, but are looking at doing a food drive in the future.
Monetary donations will go toward stocking shelves with food and personal hygiene items. Hunzer mentioned a long-standing donor, Manley Olson, who graduated from UWRF in 1959, had donated money strictly for personal care items. “So we do have some personal care items right now, some deodorant, shampoo, sanitary napkins, these kinds of things… but we do want to expand those offerings and we will be able to do that with that donor's money.”
What sets the food pantry in Rodli apart from the food pantry in AgSci is the refrigerator and microwave. With a fridge, they are able to offer students items that would otherwise spoil, and students can utilize the microwave to eat their food right away and take it to go. The food pantry in AgSci only offers nonperishable food items.
A year from now, Hunzer says she hopes the food pantry will expand with more to offer. “Right now, we do have a small gluten free section, but we would like to expand to accommodate vegetarians, accommodate vegans, accommodate people dairy free, these kinds of things.” She also mentioned having ready-made meals to microwave as well as grab-and-go sacks.
“One of the things we eventually want to do,” Hunzer said, “is get a rack and have some winter coats.” Having a full service pantry dedicated to all care items fitting for the current season will provide even more to students who are in need of different care items. The Student Sustainability Club is hoping to open a clothing closet, which would eventually become a part of Freddy’s Food Pantry. “In a year, we want it to be bigger and well known.”
Students who are interested in utilizing the food pantry in Rodli should know that if a volunteer is not around to let them in the room, the Student Success Center will provide a scanner that will let them in. Students will note their student ID number upon entry, but they personally will not be tracked. The idea behind signing in to the food pantry is to track overall usage to see patterns and demographics, so that what is provided can be adjusted to best accommodate those who frequent the food pantry.