Experiencing food insecurity? This campus resource can help.
BY ALEXIS MCCUTCHAN, STAFF WRITER
Patriot Pantry, a program held through the Student Support and Advocacy Center, looks to help students who struggle with food insecurity throughout the semester. After a brief pause over the winter break, they reopened for the semester on Feb. 1.
The Patriot Pantry was created in Fall 2014 as the “Pop-Up Pantry.” During the summer of 2016, it was incorporated into the Student Support and Advocacy Center (SSAC). Then, in spring 2017, it was renamed the Patriot Pantry, according to Patriot Pantry assistant Evan Botzki.
Patriot Pantry is helping create awareness on the overall issue of food insecurity on college campuses. Recent increases in food insecurity, largely due to COVID and its financial impacts, have impacted Mason students’ lives.
“In the Fall semester, the Patriot Pantry served a little over 300 students. That shows us that the need on campus is absolutely there, and we have seen a large increase of student users since the start of the pandemic, which also shows the financial impact that covid has had on students,” said Mariam Abdelwahab, a graduate assistant for the SSAC.
“There is some research to highlight the presence of food insecurity on college campuses, but it is something that certainly needs more attention,” Abdelwahab adds.
Abdelwahab reveals that since the pandemic, the Patriot Pantry has been operating through the online order system and contactless pick-up. However, in the past, the Patriot Pantry served more as a shopping experience, in which students physically came to the Patriot Pantry, met with staff, and proceeded to select items from the shelves.
“We had to pivot to contactless in order to remain as safe as possible, but we would love to see the Patriot Pantry have a hybrid option in the near future,” said Abdelwahab.
Although the order method has changed, Patriot Pantry still gets students the resources they need quickly, and the ordering process is a user-friendly process that allows students to select what they need.
The Patriot Pantry aims to help bring resources to college students to help fight the battle against food insecurity, and also help improve their overall well-being.
“I feel like there is a stigma with people who are experiencing food insecurity or homelessness. There are people who you wouldn’t even know are experiencing food insecurity and one of those people could be standing right next to you. There is simply no way to tell. We offer a judgment-free space for students to just come to talk and vent about whatever they might be feeling,” said Noah Shoates, student director of the Patriot Pantry.
Patriot Pantry hopes to open back up once it’s safe again for students and staff, but also wants to expand more and be able to give students access to perishable food sources as well.
“In the future, we would love to see the Patriot Pantry operating out of a bigger space, and with the capacity to hold a freezer or refrigerator in order to serve perishable items such as produce, milk, and eggs,” said Abdelwahab.
Patriot Pantry is just one of many resources that are available to students who struggle with food insecurity. There are a variety of resources available on the SSAC website, under the “Community Support Services” tab.
Patriot Pantry receives most of its funding from SSAC, but does take donations.