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U.Va. Community Food Pantry closes for the remainder of the semester

Community members depended on the pantry for food as dining options continue to decrease

The U.Va. Community food pantry opened in 2018 and has provided students and staff with access to essential food and hygiene items. (Courtesy Mairin Shea)

The University’s Community Food Pantry will be closed for the remainder of the semester, according to an announcement from the pantry’s website Friday night. 

The decision comes after the announcement that several on-Grounds buildings will be closed as the University transitions to online classes, including Newcomb Hall — where the pantry is located in the Student Activities Center on the first floor. 

“We very much wish that this was not the case but understand the need to help flatten the curve of the epidemic,” the statement read.

First opened in fall 2018 under a Student Council initiative, the pantry has since consistently provided students and staff with adequate access to essential food and hygiene items, raising resources through donations and food drives. 

With the closure of several on-Grounds dining options and other restaurants in the greater Charlottesville area due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the pantry has served as a resource for students and staff who are facing food insecurity. Observatory Hill Dining Hall is the only dining service that remains open on-Grounds and serves take-out meals only.

Prior to the end of spring break, Student Council launched an additional series of initiatives to connect students in need of assistance with resources. These included Hoos Helping Hoos — a mutual aid network connecting first-generation, low-income, international and working students with resources they may need, a satellite pantry at the Darden School of Business and a meal kit initiative, in which meal kits filled with both perishable and non-perishable food items were distributed to the pantry for pickup. 

Though the Council’s meal kit initiative has now ended, the Mutual Aid Network is still in full operation. The Community Food Pantry was most recently restocked March 15 and was expected to remain open for students in need staying on Grounds during University’s operational adjustments. Mairin Shea, a fourth-year Batten student and executive director of the Community Food Pantry, said in an email statement to The Cavalier Daily that volunteers donated as many of the leftover items as possible before the pantry’s closure.

“By that Thursday March 19, most of that food was gone, as we were experiencing a high volume of pantry visitors,” Shea said. “Volunteers took the remaining perishables and food that we could to Loaves and Fishes — we donated 117 pounds of food.”

Items that were unable to be donated are shelf stable and will be available when the Community Food Pantry is able to reopen.

The pantry encourages community members to visit alternative food pantry options in the Charlottesville area as needed, such as Blue Ridge Area Food Bank and Loaves and Fishes Food Pantry.

“We regret that we are unable to serve the U.Va. Community at this time,” Shea said. “We encourage students or staff who remain in Charlottesville and continue to face food insecurity to visit the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank and Loaves and Fishes Food Pantry, both of which operate in Charlottesville.”

According to Shea, both pantries are in need of monetary and material donations. 

This article has been updated to reflect that as many items as possible were donated and some shelf safe items still remain in the pantry.

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