Food Pantry for Students Pops Up at Emerson College

Add Emerson College to the growing list of Massachusetts schools that have a food pantry on campus as an option for students.
Office of Student Success Director Chris Daly said the pantry was set up about two weeks ago, when classes began for students, and was created to help students who are struggling financially.
Located on the second floor of the Max Mutchnik Campus Center/Piano Row building at 150 Boylston
St., the pantry is essentially an open-shelf area where students can walk up to and grab whatever they need during normal business hours.
“Last year, particular students were telling us, ‘I’m not having enough to eat,’” Daly said. “We hear from students, who were deciding between, ‘Do I buy food or do I buy my books for class or not?’ … ‘With my class and work schedule, I can’t get to the food-bank drop offs in my community.’”
Faculty members then got together with Daly’s office to research options for students and stumbled upon reading material from the College and University Food Bank Alliance, which provided a starter kit for food pantries on college campuses.
Most students aware of the food pantry are referred there by professors who know their situation.
“It’s an Emerson community effort at this point,” Daly said. “Donations are principally from staff.”
In addition to non-perishable donations suggested for the food pantry, including peanut butter, ramen noodles, cereal and pasta sauce, toiletries and personal items are also on the list, including toothpaste, deodorant, toilet paper, laundry detergent and paper towels.
Since the food pantry serves a small number of students at this point, operating hours are between Monday and Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Daly said.
“There’s not much of a structure in terms of who is getting the food at this point, so it’s an open idea,” Daly said. “It’s really aimed at off-campus students because on-campus students are required to have meal plans, but if they run out, they are welcome to come here too.”
Although those behind the pantry haven’t looked at data on students in poverty, Daly said the reason behind this effort is a desire to help.
“Some students get to college, pay the bill and are left with the other expenses and can’t afford it or don’t have a full-time job,” Daly said. “We don’t know what the level of need is. We know there’s some need, but we don’t know how broad.”
An idea being floated around is to tap into the recently established Student Assistance Fund to expand the food pantry if the need does grow, rather than relying simply on donations from internal members of the Emerson community.
The Student Assistance Fund is made up of one-time donations from individual faculty and staff members or payroll deductions that directly fund resources for students.
Daly said a full-scale marketing campaign is planned for this fall to get the word out to more teachers and students.
“We’ve used social media and are marketing this to student organizations, RAs and resident-life staff and the director of Office Campus Student Services,” Daly said. “At this point, it’s small scale. We’ll see of it grows or doesn’t over time.”
According to a 2016 “Student Hunger and Homelessness” survey conducted by the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education, 24 out of 29 public post-secondary institutions in the Commonwealth provide some type of food pantry or partner with food assistance programs in the Greater Boston Area.

Jordan Frias

Jordan Frias is an editorial assistant at Boston Herald and a contributor of Spare Change News. He is vice president of the New England Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and a graduate of Northeastern University's School of Journalism.

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