Food Pantry Openings Serve Over One Hundred Students

The newly-opened USF food pantry recently wrapped up its third opening on Oct. 19. Between the first two openings — Sept. 21 and Oct. 4 — roughly 100 students attended. A quarter of these students went to the pantry for both sessions. It is unknown how many students attended the third session.

The food pantry was created in order to address the issue of students’ hunger on campus, with an emphasis on anonymity to ensure that students feel comfortable using the resource.

The pantry is located in the basement of Gleeson Library and opens roughly every two weeks for two hours at a time. Dean of Students Shannon Gary, who is on the pantry’s advisory board, estimated that roughly 50 students utilize the pantry each time it opens.

“I think these numbers indicate we are fulfilling a need for our students,” Gary said. “If data supports [it], I hope in the future we will be able to expand access by opening more often and having more space so we are able to provide a wider, more diverse selection of items.”

Students who use the pantry scan a code on their phones, which allows Gary to track usage. Items range from rice to cereal to pasta. The items are each quantified by a point system, and students have a budget of 15 points. Volunteers provide bags for students to carry the items out.

The funding for the food pantry is currently taken out of the Office of the Dean of Students’ budget, which has been rearranged for this initiative. Donations are not currently accepted to the food pantry due to space limitations, as the pantry itself is only six feet by eight feet. The majority of the food in the pantry is from Costco and Grocery Outlet.

“For me at least, the food pantry definitely gives a lot more security,” one student who uses the food pantry said on condition of anonymity. “San Francisco is an expensive city to live in and, even with a job and not spending a lot of money, it’s hard sometimes to always get the food you need.”

Anyone can use the food pantry, but food insecurity can be a sensitive issue. The pantry advisory board wants to ensure students can use it without feeling uncomfortable or embarrassed. For this reason, the pantry is located in a public space, and only two students may enter at a time.

“I like that the food pantry is so private, I think it makes students [feel] a lot more comfortable to come here,” the anonymous student said. “It’s hard to admit when you don’t have enough money for food without people pitying you or looking down on you.”

Many of the students using the pantry said that they heard about it through emails sent out by the Dean of Students’ office. Signs have also been put up in Gleeson directing students to the location of the pantry. Gleeson staff said most students do not have difficulty finding it.

“I would recommend the food pantry to any student who is struggling to feel secure when it comes to food,” the anonymous student said. “It is a resource for a reason, and plenty of people are experiencing this issue.”

More information can be found on the USF website, https://myusf.usfca.edu/dean-of-students/food-pantry. This page provides location, dates and times for future food pantry openings at USF, as well as the food available at the pantry and the goals of the new program.

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