Food pantry opens to students, offers food, hygiene products and professional clothing

DePaul’s Food Pantry has expanded their services to include more than food after the pandemic financially strained students.

The food pantry is located on the 1st floor of the Lincoln Park Student Center in Room 107. It is open Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. The food pantry is not currently available to faculty, but if faculty members can use it as well.

Rick Moreci, director of housing, dining and student centers, said over the last two years the pandemic increased food insecurity among college students. In 2019, Temple University conducted a national survey that declared 39 percent of students in the U.S. food insecure.

To accompany the rising issue of food insecurity, DePaul has a food pantry open to students on the Lincoln Park campus.

“The pantry is open to all enrolled DePaul students,” Moreci said. “They do not need to show proof of food insecurity. The pantry is meant to help students in need whether their need for food is temporary or more long-term. Our pantry is a no-questions-asked service that we provide to students who need it.”

Dreihaus economics professor Sebastien Mary said the no-questions-asked service is the most beneficial to students because it can help students not feel ashamed or nervous about taking food they need. But, he said a turn-off from the food pantry would be the student volunteers.

“Let’s think about a scenario,” Mary said. “You are helping there and suddenly you see someone that you are quite close to in a classroom, someone you have to do a group project with but you’re not really friends. How does that make you feel? And more importantly, how does he or she or they feel about the situation? Do they feel awkward about it and then leave or do they stay around and now their secret has been broken into the open?”

This could create additional distress for students who want to come in. Yet, Housing can provide some accommodations if a staff member did not want others to know.

“Currently the pantry is only open to students,” Moreci said. “However, if a faculty or staff member were ever in need of this resource, they could reach out to us via email and we would make arrangements to assist. The pantry is operated through the staff of the Student Center and it is actually managed by two student employees who were hired to serve as pantry assistants.”

The food pantry currently offers a variety of staple, non-perishable food items such as canned goods, pasta, rice and cereal, Moreci said. Aside from those products, there has been a development to what the food pantry offers students.

The pantry works with Chartwells and the Lincoln Park Whole Foods to provide resources. They also added a cooler and freezer to have fresh and frozen food.

“[Chartwells] are the biggest partner to the pantry because they provide not only financial resources to the pantry but they also use their suppliers to order a good portion of the food that gets stocked weekly,” Moreci said. “[The Whole Foods] donate generous amounts of food weekly to our pantry. Our relationship with Whole Foods is pretty new but so far it is going really well.”

If someone is looking to donate to the food pantry, Moreci said anyone can drop off non-perishable, non-expired food or donate money online. For direct food donations, there is a collection box right outside the food pantry door.

DePaul alumni Rechal Patel said there are also other ways to help those in need. Patel suggests if a student knows someone who is food insecure they can give to them personally.

“If students are friends with other students that are food insecure they should share information (about how to get food),” Patel said. “That can help them get a good meal through places such as the food pantry. It would also be helpful if they are able to share a meal once in a while with their friend.”

The food pantry also provides other products to students besides non-perishable foods. Hygienic products are one example of the additional products the food pantry provides.

“We try to stock basic needs items such as toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant, toilet paper and hygiene products,” Moreci said. “We may not always have everything in stock but we try. We are also creating an Amazon Wish List specifically for these types of items so donors can have this kind of stuff sent directly to the pantry so we can stock them.”

The food pantry also has a clothing section for students who are in need of clothing. There is professional attire for anyone who needs professional clothing for a formal event.

Previously, clothing was in the Schmitt Academic Center. But through the Career Closet and pantry partnership clothing is now only in the pantry.

“The clothes are for the students to keep once they take what they need,” Moreci said. “We just ask that students leave the tags from what they take so we know what we may need to replenish. The clothing we get also depends entirely on donors, but luckily this also happens frequently from our very generous donors, especially faculty and staff.”

The pantry can sustainably exist if students who need it are the only ones using it.

“We want to be able to sustain this food pantry for a long time to come but in order to do that, we need the pantry to be used correctly for the reasons it exists,” Moreci said.