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Student Council mutual aid network, U.Va. Community Food Pantry available amid operational changes

A satellite food pantry location is available in Saunders Hall, in addition to the location in Newcomb Hall

Student Council launched a mutual aid network designed to connect first-generation, low-income, international and working students with resources they may need.
Student Council launched a mutual aid network designed to connect first-generation, low-income, international and working students with resources they may need.

Following the University’s decision Wednesday to extend spring break until March 19 and move classes online, Student Council launched Hoos Helping Hoos — a mutual aid network designed to connect first-generation, low-income, international and working students with resources they may need. 

Hoos Helping Hoos welcomes non-monetary resources such as housing, transportation, storage and food, as well as monetary resources like travel vouchers and frequent-flyer miles. Donors can fill out a form on the Facebook page if they would like to contribute — all information will be made public so students in need can connect with those able to provide assistance. 

“We hope to soften the blow of the University’s move to remote learning for the most vulnerable and marginalized among us,” said Isabella Liu, Chair of the Representative Body and second-year College student, in an email statement to The Cavalier Daily. “It is vitally important that Student Council taps into its wide networks and resources in times of crisis to support students.”

Students in need of monetary assistance can fill out an anonymous request form and Student Council will pair them with a donor and up to $100 of funds. Monetary aid will be offered on a first-come, first-serve basis. According to Liu, Student Financial Services cannot broadly confirm whether student-to-student donations will affect financial aid. However, Liu said that the monetary aid will be distributed regardless and will likely not impact students' financial aid.  

As of Friday, the mutual aid network has received $3,910 in pledged support and $4,479 in requested support. Roughly 50 students have been paired with aid and Student Council is prioritizing those who requested non-monetary aid or did not receive adequate travel aid from the University. 

Additionally, Student Council announced that the community food pantry will remain open to all students and staff and has received support from the Food Insecurity Resource Group, Women's Center and Student Council. 

“With many pantry board members and volunteers away from Charlottesville for spring break, we have received a lot of support from the U.Va. Community in terms of donations and making sure the pantry is stocked until pantry board members are able to make a restocking trip,” said Mairin Shea, Executive Director of the Community Food Pantry and fourth-year Batten student, in an email statement to The Cavalier Daily. 

According to Shea, the next restocking trip will take place Monday afternoon, so the pantry will be fully stocked by Monday night. Additionally, donation bins will be set up across Grounds. 

The community food pantry opened in Fall 2018 and most recently moved from Runk Hall to the Student Activities Center in Newcomb Hall this January. Student Council announced that the pantry was restocked Thursday and will remain open all hours that the building is open — due to spring break hours, it will reopen Sunday. The pantry will transition back to regular hours — 7 a.m. to 12 a.m. Monday through Saturday and 8 a.m. to 12 a.m. on Sunday — after spring break. 

“We intend fully to remain a reliable resource for U.Va. students and staff during this hard time,” Shea said. 

Student Council also established a satellite pantry at the Darden School of Business in the bottom of Saunders Hall aimed to serve students on North Grounds. The Saunders pantry will remain open all hours that the building is open. According to Ellie Brasacchio, Student Council president and fourth-year College student, food has been purchased by Student Council and the Darden Student Association, but the pantry also welcomes donations of food and hygiene supplies.

Finally, the Student Life Committee of Student Council has also started a meal kit initiative in order to provide students with food access as dining hall hours are shortened and UTS modifies transit schedules. To help students over spring break, the committee was able to distribute over 50 meal kits last week that were picked up from the Community Food Pantry in Newcomb.

“My personal goal with starting this project is to get the larger UVA student-body to engage in a conversation about the impact of food insecurity,” Darynha Gnep, chair of the Student Life Committee and third-year Curry student, said in an email statement to The Cavalier Daily. “My hope is that we can all start being cognizant about the ways in which our fellow peers must navigate around Grounds in order for us to make a more informed decision as to how we carry ourselves in different situations.”

The meal kits are made possible by a grant from the U.Va. Parents Fund as well as resources from the Community Food Pantry and the Office of the Dean of Students. Kits include both perishable and non-perishable items such as boxed macaroni and cheese, pasta, peanut butter, milk, bananas and more.

Because spring break has ended, so has the initiative. However, Gnep noted that the committee will be reaching out to the Parents Fund to discuss what is financially feasible in regards to the project continuing in the future. For now, the Student Council will continue to serve the University community through access to the Community Food Pantry.

This article has been updated to state that Student Financial Services cannot at the time broadly determine whether distribution of student-to-student donations will impact financial aid, and Student Council will distribute the donations regardless. It has also been updated to include additional information regarding Student Council's meal kit initiative.