By Olivia Nicoletti
Beginning in 2018, The Rider Food Pantry has had the opportunity to expand from just perishable goods to cleaning supplies, school supplies, frozen items and personal products.
Since the 2022 spring semester, staff and volunteers at the pantry have noticed an increase in student usage following the economic inflation around February of last year.
There have been 140 students using the pantry so far this semester, equating to 340 visits. This has demonstrated a huge increase based off of the total of 93 students that used the pantry during the 2020-2021 academic year.
Students are required to swipe into the food pantry following their first visit when they also fill out a first-time user form. According to Service and Civic Engagement Graduate Assistant Giulia Santisi, it is because the pantry runs solely off of donations and grants, so they use this system to report when applying for further grants.
So far this semester, they have had a “consistent amount of donations,” according to Santisi, and the donations usually increase during the holiday season.
The pantry is not able to accept cash or check donations, but there is the opportunity available to anyone wishing to contribute to donate online. Whether anonymous or not, whatever amount they put forward gets added into a fund where Santisi can then go and purchase items that the pantry is in need of.
In prior years, the pantry tried to have 12 of each item, but due to recent inflation and increase of student usage, some items have a higher stock rate.
Every week, Santisi goes to select stores to retrieve items in order to keep the pantry stocked.
The pantry operates on a point system, where different items are separated into sections and the students get a specific amount of points to use in each. Students are greeted by a volunteer that guides them throughout their experience in the pantry.
“The volunteers monitor the process, but it’s also to build rapport with the student and break the stigma around pantries,” Santisi said. “I noticed when they go in they’re tense and when they’re leaving, because of those interactions, it breaks [the stigma], it makes it a human experience. [It becomes] just someone asking for help and receiving it with a kind soul.”
The pantry is located in the Joseph P. Vona Center, which Santisi described as “the hub” due to the overall student support in the center.
Bins for donations are located all around campus for students, faculty and staff to contribute, and volunteers collect the items approximately once a week. Additionally, a commuter shelf was recently made in the pantry for students who do not have the resources to supply themselves with food throughout their day on campus.
This resource goes hand-in-hand with other programs the university offers, such as Broncs Against Hunger, a program that allows students who have meal plans to donate their guest meal swipes to those in need. Last fall, the program ran into an issue of students donating too late in the semester, and because the swipes do not roll over to the following semester, a lot of the donations went to waste.
There are posters around campus for interested students to scan the QR code and donate their surplus guest swipes to Broncs in need.
Students who request meal swipes have a meeting with the faculty in order to ensure that they are covered in other areas and know other options for support they have on campus.
Volunteers and staff contribute their time to the pantry each week in an effort to make a change on campus and give back to the community.
Alex Laurella, a sophomore math and secondary education major and pantry manager, is responsible for a lot of the “behind the scenes” work. His job consists of doing inventory and making fliers to hang around campus.
“I love the pantry and helping volunteers when they come in. I love that it makes me see that I can make a difference, especially in our community,” Laurella said. “It’s really fulfilling honestly to just know that you’re making a difference.”
The donation bins are located in the Bart Luedeke Center on the ground floor in front of the Info Desk and on the first floor in the Student Affairs Suite, Lynch Adler Hall on the first floor near the elevator, Bierenbaum Fisher Hall on the first floor next to the printing station, Anne Brossman Sweigart Hall on the first floor near the Data and Analysis Lab, Science and Technology Center on the first floor next to the printing station, Fine Arts Building on the first floor next to the printing station, Franklin F. Moore Library on the ground floor outside of Human Resources, Centennial House in the main lobby, Joseph P. Vona Center outside of room 23 (outside of the pantry) and the Student Recreation Center on the first floor next to the printing station.
Originally printed in the 11/16/22 issue.