Patriot Pantry addresses food insecurity on college campuses
BY HAILEY BULLIS, CO EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
Since Mason’s Patriot Pantry first opened in December 2014 — then known as the “Pop Up Pantry” — the Student Support and Advocacy (SSAC) program has grown. Now, the pantry is looking to start delivering food and hygiene items to Mason’s Arlington campus this semester.
According to the College and University Food Bank Alliance, 30 percent of college students are food insecure. Mason’s patriot pantry has seen an increase in use by students in recent semesters, according to Matthew Carlos, the assistant director of student support and community outreach at SSAC.
“I think it’s always been there, to be honest with you, but I think more focus is being placed on food insecurity and college students experiencing food insecurity,” Carlos said.
For the entirety of the 2018-19 school year, the pantry had about 90 unique users according to Carlos.
This past fall 2019, the pantry had a total of 92 unique users. However, since the start of the spring semester, the pantry has had about 70 unique users.
“That shows you kind of like, again, how it’s growing, how many students are starting to use it,” Carlos said. “Again, that was two semesters worth of students. Now, we’ve had that in one semester, which is great. You know, it’s good and it’s bad all the same time. You know, that means that many more students are experiencing food insecurity. But I’m glad folks are getting connected to the pantry all at the same time.”
According to Anna Cho, a professional graduate assistant at SSAC, there were 335 appointments made throughout the fall 2019 semester, and a total of 4,573.56 pounds of food were taken by students using the pantry. A total of 5772 pounds were donated to the pantry by various organizations and local churches.
“So it’s like, it sucks that anyone is food insecure or home insecure,” Cho said. “There are a couple of our students, obviously not to give away any names, but a couple students are homeless and they’re living out of their cars or they’re sleeping on friends’ floors on campus and like — so they did tell us that the pantry is like their sole source of food and hygiene stuff. So we do our best to keep it stocked, obviously.”
As of last year, students were allowed to take 25 pounds of items from the pantry each visit. However, recently, the pantry has increased the amount students are allowed to take to 30 pounds of various food and hygiene products.
“So like, if they’re not getting the basic necessities like food, shelter clothes, like, they can’t focus on their studies. So if we can help out, even in like a small way, it’s really great that we can make a difference,” said Cho.
Students who want to use the pantry or want to set up a delivery to Mason’s Arlington campus can submit a request on the SSAC website.