The Student Food Pantry offers new Tuesday “grab-and-go” snack program for quick bites between class

September 14, 2018

The pantry has served more than 4,000 pounds of food and continues to look for ways to serve food-insecure students.

When Christopher Holly came to campus, he had a strong academic history and a scholarship. But what he didn’t have was regular access to food.

“I was out on my own. That started after high school. I had the grades to get me to college, but only had $5 to my name when I first got here,” Holly said.

But the Student Food Pantry had what he needed — a way to sustain himself so that he could nourish his education.

“I honestly don’t know if I would have gotten through my freshman year without it,” said Holly, who is now a senior, a campus Difference Maker and a member of Student Government, the Black Student Union and the Student Philanthropy Council.

Located on the University Center’s second floor (UC 2135), the UM-Dearborn Student Food Pantry is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, with Panera Bread items available to campus during Thursday’s hours.

The pantry, which celebrated its fifth anniversary earlier this year, was started by staff and students who understood that food insecurity and inaccessibility was proving to be a barrier to students’ ability to be successful. Since opening, it has distributed nearly 4,000 pounds of food, raised more than 4,500 pounds of food and toiletry items, and acquired $3,500 in financial contributions, said Coordinator for Civic Engagement Brendan Gallagher.

“The food pantry’s use has been on a steady rise since opening in 2013,” said Gallagher, who mentioned that donations keep the pantry running. “I’ve had conversations with students who said that knowing they have a place to go to get food mitigates their decision to leave campus to look for food, which may lead to skipping. We want to get the word out and let students know we are here if you need us."

Gallagher said the pantry continues to look for ways to better serve its population. New this academic year are “grab-and-go” items, like drinkable soups, granola bars and trail mix. Gallagher, who helped start the pantry as an undergraduate student, said students suggested offering food items that they could eat between courses — something that was nutritious and didn't need much prep.

“Some of our students are on campus all day and cannot afford to purchase a meal. And if they packed a meal, they do not have a place to store it on a hot day,” he said. “So during peak class times, we are offering items that students can grab and take with them while they are on the go to their next class.” Grab-and-go items are available starting at 11 a.m. Tuesdays on a table outside of the Student Food Pantry.

For his first year of school, Holly said he used the pantry on a regular basis — choosing items like noodles and spaghetti sauce or green beans and rice — to make meals so he’d have the energy to focus on why he was in college: to create a better life for himself.

With his graduation on the horizon, Holly still frequents the pantry — but now as an Office for Student Engagement student assistant who stocks shelves and helps others as needed.

“I used to hide that I went there because I wrongly associated a stigma with it, but now I promote it because I know how much it has helped me,” Holly said. “Don’t focus on where you are going to get your next meal. If you are a student, campus has that covered. Instead, focus on learning."

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