Student Council plans to open U.Va. food pantry in early fall

The Pantry is meant to serve students, faculty, staff and community members

It is unclear how many students deal with food insecurity at the University. Emma Bradford | Cavalier Daily

The University Student Council has set the opening date of its U.Va. Community Food Pantry for early fall 2018. The Food Pantry is planned to open in the Runk Green Room for select hours — although these hours have not been decided on — and will serve students, faculty, staff and community members, allowing those who face food insecurity in Charlottesville to pick up food at the Pantry.

While there are no numbers on how many U.Va. students face food insecurity, the Wisconsin Hope Lab at the University of Wisconsin conducted a national survey in April 2018 and found that over a third of university students were “food insecure” in the 30 days preceding the survey.

Gwen Dilworth, a rising fourth-year College student, became the director of the program in January 2018. Dilworth said a lot of thought had been put into the Food Bank over the past year, but the idea had been around for some time — members of Student Council had been considering the idea since around 2015.

A new committee titled the U.Va. Student Community Food Bank Board was created in November to oversee the project. Originally named the U.Va. Student Community Food Bank, the bill to create the program was approved by the U.Va. Student Senate in October 2017. The bill states that the Food Pantry will “ensure the ready provision of essential foodstuffs and life goods to the University community.”  

The Committee is still planning a permanent method of obtaining food, funds and volunteers for the pantry, but Dilworth said the program hoped to eventually partner with Madison House for volunteers and the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank to obtain supplies. The program has so far been funded by a donation from the U.Va. Parents fund, and is still developing a plan on raising further funds.

“We’ve also been working … with the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank about working with them long term,” Dilworth said. “Blue Ridge has partnerships, with a number of agencies across our region and we hope to be able to partner with them as a way to acquire food and get government funding.”

The Blue Ridge Area Food Bank is an organization that gives 25 million pounds of food to their roughly 212 partner organizations throughout central Virginia each year. The U.Va. Community Food Pantry is working to become one of these partners, among the other pantries, soup kitchens, shelters and churches that the Food Bank already serves, although they are not officially a partner yet. 

“A partner with the Food Bank benefits in terms of how much food they can acquire, the variety of food they can acquire, and how much it can cost them,” said Abena Foreman-Trice, the director of communications for the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank.

Foreman-Trice also noted the importance of having help for college students who are facing food insecurity.

“There is a large number of high school students who rely on free and reduced lunch,” Foreman-Trice said. “Food insecurity can follow them into later years.”

The Charlottesville/Albemarle Emergency Food Bank is another food bank in the area who serves University members. The EFN provides food to 131 seniors, 781 adults and 712 children on an average month and provided services to over 19,000 individuals in 2017. However, there are no statistics to exactly how many of these clients were University students or staff according to Cari Brown, EFN’s office manager. 

The Runk Green Room location will be a more convenient to students, with the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank and the EFN both being over a half hour walk from Grounds.

“For me, it is difficult to know how many people we will reach,” Dilworth said, citing the lack of statistics on student food insecurity at the University. “But our goal is to understand the need at U.Va. and then alleviate that need and help students who have to choose between textbooks and meals.”

Correction: This article originally stated Gwen Dilworth is a Student Council representative and the name of the program is U.Va. Student Community Food Pantry. Dilworth is not a student council representative and the program name has been changed to U.Va. Community Food Pantry.

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