Student Senate hopes to make a dent in the systemic food insecurity they’ve been made aware of with the opening of a food pantry in a storage closet adjacent to the Taylor Lounge in the Seymour Union.
“This food pantry is meant to be one of the steps, one of the things that we can do to suppress food insecurity … It’s not meant to solve the problem, but it’s meant to make it a little bit better,” Chair of the Student Senate Dining Services committee, junior Leonard Monterey said.
Collaborating with the Alliance for Peaceful Action, Student Senate began the collection of food for the pantry at the end of last term, with collection boxes being placed by the Grab-and-Go’s in both Post and Seymour, before its opening this term. Student Senate members cleaned out the storage area where the pantry is now located, replacing clutter with food like typical Grab-And-Go items, cereal and hot cocoa.
“Before we started truly collaborating with other clubs and stuff, there were multiple ways people were thinking of trying to solve food insecurity,” Monterey said.
It was decided it was best to have a designated spot for the food collection, allowing efforts to be focused on collecting the food.
Monterey acknowledged some of the issues that are still being worked out with the management of the food pantry.
“There’s just a bit of organizational stuff that’s still getting worked out like having a set schedule for people to check it, or if we just want someone or a couple people to be in charge of it,” he said.
Monterey also noted the issue of making the pantry sustainable.
“There are some perishable foods in there that are replenished each week. However, that’s not the most sustainable thing,” he said, citing the expenses involved.
While Monterey was uncertain that it would be possible to work out the organizational issues given the busy Spring Term, in general he felt the launch of the pantry was going smoothly. He noted that getting direct feedback from students about it has been difficult.
“That’s probably because that’s a personal thing. If you need to use the food [pantry], not everyone is going to feel comfortable saying ‘hey, I’m using this.’ There has been food taken, so there are people out there that are definitely utilizing this space,” he said.
Monterey emphasized that the food pantry is not intended to solve the entire issue of food insecurity at Knox.
“There’s no one thing you can fix in order to improve food insecurity overall, it’s just a bunch of small things,” he said.
While students were not greatly familiar with the pantry yet, they were generally receptive to the concept.
“I don’t know what it’s like yet, but I think it’s a really good idea,” junior Pete Petersen said.
“I suppose it’s helpful, but if they had like healthier options — like if they had fruits, vegetables, all that stuff for people to cook with — I think that would have been a good idea,” junior Leslie Hernandez said.
While she was concerned the limited options lowered the pantry’s helpfulness, Hernandez was reluctant to criticize it too quickly.
“I suppose I can’t really give a full-on judgment of this — it’s trial and error,” she said.
Monterey stated that at a Student Life Committee meeting, the idea was brought up of bringing in a non-profit which could supply the food pantry, following the example of larger universities. However, he stated that this was simply an idea that was thrown around, along with considering the future of the meal plan and the prices in the C-Store.
“Those are just preliminary ideas … We need to exhaust all the ways we can improve our situation,” Monterey said. “Right now, I am very hopeful.”