By Lauren Lavelle
The Rider Pantry continues to serve Rider students in need of basic items like canned food and toiletries, after its successful opening in February 2018.
The pantry, which relies on donations from the Rider and Lawrence Township communities, has been used 239 times since its debut, according to Dana Lopes, assistant director of student support services and pantry chair.
“I think [the pantry] is a huge benefit for those students who have sacrificed their eating for paying their tuition, buying books or transportation,” Lopes said. “The students that come in are so grateful that somebody actually recognized the need and did something about it.”
Any Rider student without an unlimited meal plan is welcome to the pantry’s selection of non-perishable foods, toiletries, school supplies and winter clothing items. Those with 99 swipes a week at Daly Dining Hall have access to all sections of the pantry except for the food portion.
“We’re trying to make sure [those students] utilize what they’ve already paid for before they come to the pantry,” said Lopes.
Along with an abundance of donations and active use from the Rider community, the pantry also expanded its food options over the summer. The organization was previously only allowed to provide students with non-perishable boxed and canned items before a significant donation from a Rider staff member.
“A staff member donated a freezer,” Lopes said. “It was a major change.”
Lopes said the donation gave the pantry the opportunity to offer healthier items to its users, including vegetarian and vegan options.
“It allows us to offer different food options for students,” she said. “In terms of nutritional value, we can pick items that don’t have such high sodium or preservatives. Everything in the freezer is already cooked so all the students have to do is microwave it.”
Last May, the pantry was given a grant from United Way Worldwide, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving local communities through partnerships with charitable organizations. The grant provided the pantry with the necessary amount of items needed to give students taking summer classes access to the pantry.
“[With the grant,] we were able to help the students here this summer that have meal plan gaps or don’t have a meal plan,” Lopes said.
The pantry was also able to provide students in need of food on the weekends with weekend meal kits.
“Students that left on a Thursday to go home or were here all weekend and needed access to food, we provided them with a bag that gave them enough meals for Friday, Saturday and Sunday,” Lopes said.
Leanna Fenneberg, vice president for student affairs, emphasized Rider’s commitment to providing its students with a welcoming, non-judgmental environment.
“Each student has their own challenges and barriers and, while we cannot address all of these, the pantry is something our community could come together to provide for students who are food insecure or otherwise in need of basic essentials,” said Fenneberg. “We want to assure success for all of our students, and the pantry is one of many support mechanisms available to help us toward this goal.”
Fenneberg holds hope that more students will realize the pantry’s value to the Rider community.
“While there can be a social stigma or concern of personal pride in seeking help, we want students to know that the Rider pantry exists to support them and that they can use the resource with great dignity, knowing that it was established out of genuine care and respect for those who can benefit from it,” she said.
The Rider pantry is located in room 23 at the Joseph Vona Academic Annex. It is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.