SUA Food Pantry Resumes Operation

Paid leadership, new collaborations signal fresh start

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After a four-month hiatus, the Student Union Assembly (SUA) Food Pantry reopened with 11 new paid positions and a food recovery pilot program through the Office of Sustainability.

The paid positions are for shift leads, undergraduate students who will be the new volunteer workers’ first point of contact. These shift leads will earn $20 per on-call shift — $10 for being on duty and $10 for opening or closing.

Illustration by Lizzy Choi

There are also plans to hire a pantry manager at the end of fall quarter. The pantry manager will be chosen out of the 11 current shift leads and will be paid $400 a month in exchange for 10 working hours a week.

Shift lead Libby Pearman said in an email the SUA Food Pantry is currently open to all undergraduates and access for graduate students is in the works.

“Nutrition should be a right, not a privilege,” Pearman said in an email, “and the food pantry extends this right to all students, regardless of their income.”

The SUA Food Pantry began operation in spring 2017 with an initiative by Tamra Owens, the vice president of student life. Due to its dependence on volunteers, the pantry closed for summer and the first four weeks of fall. The pantry operates on a $7,000 annual budget carved from SUA’s general fund. The Office of Physical Education, Recreation and Sports (OPERS) is allowing the pantry to occupy part of its building, in a space previously used for lockers, until 2019.

Illustration by Lizzy Choi

Measure 67, the Campus Student Government Fee Increase, would have provided additional funds toward the pantry, but the measure failed to pass last spring. While this didn’t stop the food pantry from reopening this year, it does create uncertainties for its future due to the limited time left at OPERS.

The SUA Food Pantry is not the first food pantry on campus. The Dean of Students Office pantry and the Family Student Housing pantry are two others on campus. The food pantries around campus work together and hold monthly meetings where they discuss how to best meet the needs of the campus, Owens said.

“It’s no questions asked free groceries,” Owens said. “[…] It’s always fresh food, and it’s always food that’s good for you.”

In collaboration with the Office of Sustainability, the SUA Food Pantry will recover leftovers from Perk Coffee Bar. Obtaining leftovers from Perk Coffee Bar is not possible for the Dean of Students Office’s food pantry because it closes before the coffee bars do, a problem remedied by the SUA pantry’s 11 p.m. closing time.

The Office of Sustainability is hoping to incorporate the same partnership with the dining halls and catering events, which may become a reality if the food recovery pilot with Perk Coffee Bar is a success, said Kristen Lee, sustainability programs manager at the Office of Sustainability.

“It’s an opportunity to directly make a difference with food security on campus,” Lee said. “[…] It reduces food waste on campus and fights hunger, which are two of our biggest priorities.”

Illustration by Lizzy Choi

Beyond the environmental implications of the pilot program, the pantry will look to further ease food insecurity for students. Libby Pearman, one of the shift leads for the food pantry, said she’s experienced food insecurity first hand due to financial issues that caused her and her brother to live off of beans and instant ramen for a year.

“The food pantry hit close to home for me, which is why I am thrilled to be working there,” Pearman said in an email. “I hope to support students who struggle with food insecurity and give them the quality of life they deserve.”