The Student Food Pantry doubled its hours at the beginning of fall term. Before the change, students would stand in line hoping for a chance to get some groceries from the tiny one-car garage full of food.
Now, Food for Lane County, a nonprofit organization, began donating more food to the pantry, and students don’t feel afraid that food will run out if they don’t come early to wait in line.
“People would show up an hour in advance, and the line would extend clear down to the corner,” said Rev. Doug Hale, manager of the Student Food Pantry. “Then it would take at least an hour to get those people through,” he said.
Rev. Hale said that the pantry now opens from 5 to 6 p.m. on Wednesday and 5 to 6 p.m. on Thursday, rather than just on Thursday. The Pantry now serves about 150 students per week – 50 more than when the pantry was only open on Thursdays. Plus the line is shorter and it takes less time for students to get through.
Although the pantry is serving more students more efficiently, it still doesn’t have the space that it needs to grow.
Oregon State University and Lane Community College both have food pantries on campus for students, but the Student Food Pantry is different. It isn’t officially associated with the University of Oregon. Instead, it is run entirely by the Episcopal Campus Ministry, and it is open to any student with a student ID from any university or college.
The Pantry has been open for six years, and Rev. Hale has been managing it for five. He explained that the Pantry is very complicated to run, and it takes the majority of his time to maintain, even though the Ministry also has weekly worship services and discussions.
“This is about caring for people as people, whether it’s about food or not,” he said.
Rev. Hale said he has thought about every angle of how to get food to more students; he has added more shelves for food in the pantry, found more volunteers for the extra hours, thought about trying to expand the garage or move to a bigger space and has tried to work with administration to get a space on the UO campus.
“Sometime there might be space but it might not be appropriate,” he said. A space for the pantry would need to have enough electrical access for multiple fridges and freezers, access to the street for unloading food and at least some sort of counter and water access for preparing food.
Rev. Hale said that for years there has been talk of moving the pantry to a larger space on campus so that it could serve more students.
“This is really an important issue to [ASUO President] Amy Schenk. The ASUO is really mobilizing to get some things happening. We need a bigger space for this,” Hale said.
Moving and expanding the Pantry was a major part of Schenk’s platform last year when she ran for ASUO president. Schenk remains passionate about moving the pantry on campus.
She has created a task force within the ASUO focused on getting a space for the pantry.
“Efforts are coming along. We’re hoping to solidify location prospects by the end of winter term or the middle of spring,” Schenk said in an interview with the Emerald. After the location is chosen, Schenk predicts that the pantry will be opened within a year. The ASUO food pantry task force meets with administration this Friday from 1 to 2 p.m. Anyone interested in attending this meeting can contact Schenk at [email protected].