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Student Food Pantry works to keep up with growing demand

December 3, 2019

Giving Blueday is here. Looking to make a difference? The Student Food Pantry has many ways to give and help feed students in need.

There was a record-breaking snowfall on the ground. But instead of worrying about the ice on the road on the November day, Nadeen Abdallah was concerned about the food on the student pantry shelves.

On the snowy weekday, Abdallah, interim Student Life coordinator and a 2019 graduate, looked for friends who have four-wheel drive vehicles. She’s determined to get to Gleaners to pick up some items on her list — soups, cereals, canned goods, noodles, spaghetti sauce — through recent monetary donations to replenish the over picked shelves.  

“And jars of peanut butter. Students like peanut butter because it is shelf stable, it is filling, you can eat it by itself and it takes awhile before the jar is empty.” 

Helping put food on Student Food Pantry shelves is one example of how your Giving Blueday dollars can work to positively impact student lives. 

Abdallah said the nearly bare shelves in the food pantry’s second floor University Center location point to the extreme need across campus, with more than 250 students benefiting  from the pantry since the fall semester began.

"On our campus, food disparity is an ongoing conversation and many faculty, staff and students know that helping the food pantry has an immediate impact on students," said Eva Gogola, UM-Dearborn director of Annual Giving and Advancement Services.

Abdallah said the food pantry team is constantly looking for ways to address food insecurity on campus. There’s the recent addition of  a food pantry-run snack station in the Talent Gateway, since many students congregate there. A few times a week Abdallah and student volunteers replenish it. And — noting the speed that the snack station gets depleted — they are looking to expand and have a full food pantry in Fairlane Center.

But that's in the future. Until then, they are looking for assistance for keeping the shelves full at their University Center location. Abdallah says a major part of keeping the pantry open is the generosity of others.

“The people on campus are amazing. Our students really appreciate having access to food,” she said. “Donations of food or money help someone who is feeling stressed out over feeding themselves or their families," she said. “Our students want to earn an education to make a better life for themselves and for their families. And all the people who support the pantry are helping some of our most vulnerable students get to their degree.”

Gogola says Giving Blueday gives the chance to maximize a gift too. Throughout the day today, there are social media matches and challenges that will help donations go further. "Giving Blueday is a chance for a lot of people to make a difference together," said Gogola, who mentions that last year more than $100,000 was raised for UM-Dearborn in the 24-hour period. "Philanthropy is personal, but I think it should also be fun. We've really embraced that at UM-Dearborn on Giving Blueday."

Abdallah says she sees the appreciation on the students' faces when they leave the food pantry with groceries. And she's thankful for the people who continue to support that feeling of happiness and relief.

“We have a lot of students here who are first in their families to go to college and are on their own. They don’t have someone who is putting food on the table or who can help them financially. Many of the students we serve do work, but part time or for low wages,” she said. “Having the food pantry means our students don’t have to feel hungry in class, to the point where they can’t concentrate, or worry about where they are going to find their next meal. But when they leave here with a bag of food, they are all smiles."

Abdallah then finds someone with the vehicle she needs to travel safely on the snowy day — so she and the Office of Student Life student assistants bundle up and head out to restock the shelves.

How can you help: 

  • Monetary donations, which allow the food pantry team to fill the most pressing need, often at a reduced rate, are always appreciated and can be made online

  • Non-perishable food items, hygiene products, and cleaning supplies can be designated for the food pantry and dropped off at the Office for Student Life (2136 UC). 

  • Departments or offices that want to collect items can contact the food pantry to arrange a pickup. 

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