By Tessa Douglas
For almost two years, the Rider Pantry has opened its doors to serve Rider students in need of food, clothing, toiletries and school supplies.
Sue Perls, coordinator of service and civic engagement said that the pantry is still in the beginning stages.
“We are making a lot of changes and we are very excited about the future of the Rider Pantry,” she said.
The Rider Pantry is constantly looking to partner with businesses in its area. Three weeks ago, it began working with the Panera Bread in Princeton, New Jersey, through its “Day-End Dough-Nation” Program which will provide Rider students with bread and pastries that go unsold on Wednesdays.
“It’s nice that Rider is able to do this. Not everyone is able to live on campus or have a meal card so they are helping a lot of people out by giving them this experience,” said freshman biology major Lakya Fischer.
By collaborating with Panera, the pantry is also able to help students feel more positive.
“I have heard students say after getting the Panera that this has literally made their day,” said Perls.
The Office of Service and Civic Engagement hopes to collaborate with Gourmet Dining in the future to provide students with meals in a way that is similar to its partnership with Panera.
“There are so many large scale, even small scale catered events on campus and we recognize that oftentimes there are items that are tossed after an event because there is extra food,” said Perls. “We want to create a notification system to alert students to come by and grab a nice, free meal.”
Recently, the Office of Service and Civic Engagement hired Rayjohn Felicia as the food security graduate assistant to oversee the day-to-day operations at the pantry.
Another change in the pantry is that it has gone paperless when checking students in. This has made the pantry more organized and accessible.
“We used to have to add people’s first-time user form every time they come into the pantry into the binder. Now, students can swipe on BroncNation whenever they utilize the pantry and it is private,” said Perls.
While food and supplies are important to the pantry, Perls is also looking for a way to introduce educational programs such as Grocery Bingo, Financial Literacy and Dress For Success.
“We want the student experience to be fun, welcoming and relational when they come into the pantry. We don’t want it to be transactional,” said Perls. “We recognize that students don’t just have a need for food, body wash, deodorant and things like that. There is also an education component that we want to make sure that we are reaching.”
Perls recognized that students do not just go to class. She hoped that the Rider Pantry will continue to support them.
Freshman musical theater major Skylar Derthick said, “This program is really exciting. It is truly going to strengthen the community and bring people together. A lot of people think that they have to fend for themselves and be independent but just knowing that your community is there for you and that you have resources is really important.”
The Rider Pantry is located in the Joseph Vona Academic Annex and is accessible Tuesday through Thursday from noon to 2 p.m. or by appointment. Donations can be dropped off at the pantry from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday and by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.