The Impact of the University of Windsor’s Food Pantry
The University of Windsor’s student-run food pantry is transforming its offerings, engaging students in evolving their selections and collaborating to address campus food insecurity.
Ghallia Hashem, the University of Windsor’s Student Alliance (UWSA) president says there is in an increase in students using the student-run food pantry.
“We started the food pantry this summer for this year, and there was an exponential uptick in the number of people who would stop by and take items, compared to last year,” Hashem shares. This demand is reflected in the statistics – on average, around 80 people visited the food bank, depleting groceries intended to last three days in just one day.
Hashem attributes the increase to the growth of students studying this Fall semester. “A lot of them are graduate students, as well as international students,” she adds.
Hashem describes the relationship between the rising grocery prices and the food pantry as a multifaceted issue. “There is comorbidity with everything being so expensive.”
She sheds light on the challenges students encounter. “Trying to find the right resources to feed yourself and sustain yourself is difficult,” she notes.
“It plays a role in our psychology and plays a role in our overall health. Because if you’re not able to feed yourself, then how are you supposed to perform as well as other people who have those resources available for them?”
Diversifying their offerings to meet evolving needs, the food pantry has transitioned from providing snacks to essential whole foods. Hashem explains, “We moved away from snacks such as granola bars and fruit snacks, and gravitated towards full whole foods, such as grain items, frozen foods, and frozen meats.”
Elaborating on the specifics, she details the range of items available. “We had bought 20 big bags of onions within these past three days, now with maybe 10 onion heads left. We had the same experience after buying around 300 heads of garlic, with nearly all gone. We have noticed vegetables like carrots and potatoes are popular.”
She further adds, “It’s a lot of trial and error, but we’ve moved more towards the items that we know the students are reaching towards.”
The food pantry’s proactive approach includes engaging with students in grocery stores to understand their preferences.
“We have asked students in grocery stores what they buy,” Hashem elaborates. “One student mentioned how they buy green peppers to use in their stews, and we noted that down. I want to say around 100 green bell peppers were gone within the first two days after we stocked them.”
Hashem details collaborative efforts between the university and external organizations to address the escalating demand. “We have worked very closely with the student center (CAW), the University of Windsor Sustainability Office, and the Alumni Association.” She adds, “We have been in talks with local greenhouses to see if we can secure getting their less-than-perfect vegetables sent over to us every week.”
With the goal to increase food donations, the Food Pantry partnered with the Alumni Association to set up drop-off food drives on November 28th. With the help of these resources, Hashem states, “I think that it’s safe to say that we anticipate more collaborations across campus and hopefully with the greater community as well.”
Emphasizing the broader community’s role in destigmatizing food pantries, Hashem urges collective action from students. “Making the space more welcoming and working together as a community will help.” She further emphasizes, “We’re always looking for volunteers at the food pantry. The more volunteers we have, the longer we can stay open and the longer we can stay open, the more students we can serve.”
The Food Pantry is located in room 233 in the CAW student center. To book an appointment, or ask any inquiries, email email@example.com.