EMU to open a food pantry in fall term but not without obstacles
There may be a food pantry in the EMU this fall term thanks to the help of the Radical Organizing & Activism Resource Center.
ROAR has worked on this project since last summer, EMU Board member Lisa Smith said. The goal is to provide an emergency relief food pantry that is accessible to students.
“We might have to start out small,” Smith said. “At least we will have an emergency relief food pantry. Getting canned goods will not be too big of an issue.”
A campus food pantry is not unique to only the University of Oregon. According to Sustainability Program Coordinator Eric Beeler, Oregon State University and University of Washington have recently opened up food pantries in their union buildings.
Beeler said three out of 10 UO students reported skipping a meal in the last month, according to the UO Health Center.
“This is an asset that our school needs,” Smith said. “Now with the tuition increases happening next year, there is a high chance that more students will be put into a position where they can’t pay for food.”
However, the project is hitting several roadblocks.
An off-campus food pantry, operated by Episcopal Reverend Doug Hale, is currently the sole provider for UO students. The food pantry is located at the corner of 18th Avenue and Onyx Street and only opens for two hours every Thursday.
The 3-year-old food pantry provides a variety of fresh and canned food to at least 105 students per week, Hale said. Most of its food comes from Food for Lane County. Hale said he’s willing to close down his food pantry and donate the refrigerators to ROAR if that means more accessibility for students. But he’s not sure about the current plan.
“Food insecurity is a big problem on this campus,” Hale said. “But right now, I’m not convinced that having the food pantry in the EMU is better.”
Questions about safety were also raised at the board meetings. Beeler said he’s concerned about violating the fire codes.
“If we have 120 people in ROAR’s space, where do they sit in line?” Beeler said. “I think there is a lot of issues to that.”
At the meeting on April 27, the EMU Board voted to approve the project and promised to help out ROAR in anyway within its authority. Smith said the board will revise its policy that disallows the installation of hanging shelves on the wall in the EMU.
“We want this to happen, but we don’t want to take control over ROAR’s project,” Smith said. “We need to get everyone on the same page to be able to work cohesively together.”
Smith hopes the small start-up this fall will lead to a more substantial service that will open three times a week for students.
UO student Kylie Juggert, a former volunteer at the off-campus food pantry, still goes to the pantry often.
“This is a great service that provides a good variety of fresh stuff,” Juggert said. “It has grown so much since I worked here, but there should be more support from the university.”
UO student Ryan Eustice said he just heard about the food pantry this term.
“It’s a shame that not so many people know about [the food pantry],” Eustice said. “To have the food pantry in the EMU is better, because it’s right in the center of campus, but this is also not too far away.”
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