Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Students aim to bring back food pantry at UMass

While there are initiatives in place to support student access to food, one is missing
Caroline O’Connor/Daily Collegian (2018)

As universities across the country transition back to pre-pandemic campus life, many are missing essential spaces, including student food pantries.

According to a 2021 survey from the Hope Center, 39 percent of students in two-year colleges and 29 percent of students at four-year colleges reported experiencing food insecurity. In addition, based on a 2015 survey, 24 percent of undergraduate students at the University of Massachusetts reported that they worry about their meal plan running out.

While the Dean of Students Office provides resources for those facing food insecurity such as the meal plan assistance program, there was a food pantry on campus that opened in 2018. It was run by the service fraternity Alpha Phi Omega (APO) and the Graduate Student Senate.

However, during the pandemic this pantry was shut down. Five years later, it has yet to reopen.

Anna Drexler is a 2021 UMass graduate and former APO member who helped run the food pantry. After hearing that the pantry wasn’t running, she said she was “shocked” and explained that she had worked tirelessly to run the pantry and establish a space.

“It was hard at first, as the pantry was entirely run by students,” Drexler said. “We didn’t really know what we were doing, but we knew we wanted to help.”

After Drexler and a few other APO members met with UMass administrators, they were able to open the pantry for undergraduate and graduate students. Drexler said that it was rewarding to have people call her in the middle of class to thank her for her work.

Drexler noted that she remembers being told by administrators that once the Student Union renovation was complete, the pantry could move there from Bartlett Hall.

“The space in Bartlett was small, but we were hopeful to move,” Drexler said.

Grace Cipollone, a sophomore biology major and the president of APO, is now trying to bring back the pantry. She was told several times by administrators in the Dean of Students Office that there wasn’t a space on campus, according to Cipollone.

When asked about the possibility of opening the pantry again, Stephanie Frascadore, graduate student case manager in the Dean of Students Office, was unable to respond.

“The student food pantry was not a Dean of Students Office initiative thus I am not able to answer the question,” Frascadore wrote in an email.

While this pantry has not returned to campus, UMass has a partnership with the Amherst Survival Center. For many students, however, this center can be inaccessible, especially for students without cars, Cipollone said.

“The idea of having an on-campus space is so students feel safe and aren’t having to go out of their way,” Cipollone said.

Student food pantries aren’t a new thing, and groups such as the Hunger Free Campus Coalition are working to support legislation filed by state Rep. Mindy Domb and state Rep. Andrew Vargas that support initiatives such as food pantries on college campuses.

Laura Sylvester is a public policy manager at the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, a partner of the Hunger Free Campus Coalition. Sylvester said FBWM works with several colleges throughout Massachusetts, including Holyoke Community College and Bridgewater State University.

With this legislation in mind and involvement in APO, Cipollone started a petition aiming at establishing the food pantry again. The petition has gained 425 signatures in five days.

Olivia Capriotti can be reached at [email protected].

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