New EIJC food pantry offers sustenance to students

By J Frank

In a new initiative lead by the Equity, Inclusion, and Justice Committee (EIJC), a food pantry is now available for students on the Lewis & Clark campus. Students can pick up free groceries from the pantry, located in the ReUse room in Fowler Student Center, on Fridays from 2 p.m.- 5 p.m. 

The EIJC began planning the creation of a food pantry last year after observing a need through their grant program. Students may submit applications for grants which will serve to increase equity, inclusion and justice, and the EIJC’s board chooses which grants their budget will fund.

Last year, the EIJC saw an increase in individual grants for grocery money. 

“We have often received grant requests for groceries, and through that we realized that there was a need on campus for more access to food,” EIJC Chair Eeshani Thomas ’24 said. 

This year, the EIJC hopes to broaden their impact by funding a food pantry instead of individual grocery requests. 

“Looking at how much money we spent on grants last year that were for food specifically, it was around $2000, so instead of having that money be sent to individual students, and having a much smaller range of impact, we dedicated to allocate that money to a broader food pantry, which will hopefully reach more students this year,” Thomas said.

EIJC is part of the group of organizations funded by the Associated Student Body (ASB), who divides up the money gathered from the annual mandatory $360 student fee which students pay along with tuition. 

“While $2000 seems like a lot at first, in an ideal world, we want every student who needs it to be able to benefit from this resource, and $2000 for the whole year is not enough to sustain as many people as are probably going to need this resource on campus,” Thomas said.

Thomas expects the food pantry to be an important resource for students given the need that she has noticed in her time with EIJC, as well as the availability of similar resources on a larger scale at many other college campuses. Therefore, she hopes that eventually LC administration will absorb the food pantry and provide institutional leadership and funding, which would increase the pantry’s range of aid and further alleviate students’ financial burden.

“Other institutions such as Reed have food pantries on campus that are institutionally supported, and so it would be amazing if our institution would model that as well,” Thomas said. “Hopefully this doesn’t need to be a completely student-run endeavor in the future.”

Associated Student Body Vice President Madeleine MacWilliamson ’24 agrees regarding the need for this pantry. They have  also supported and advocated for the pantry’s creation since last year, and are glad that efforts have finally yielded results.

“The food pantry has been a long time coming. I’ve talked extensively with (Vice President for Student Life and Dean of Students) Evette about the lack of resources and access to food on campus, and I’m hoping that students in need can utilize this community pantry,” MacWilliamson said.

Currently, EIJC is exploring options to expand the food pantry’s hours and resources in order to make the most of their budget this year and help as many students as possible. 

Thomas expressed hope that a successful first year for the pantry would prove to administration how it benefits the college. 

For now, the pantry’s home is the ReUse room, but the ReUse room is only open for specific, limited hours as it is also Sustainability Director Amy Dvorak’s personal office. One of Thomas’ goals is to create a more permanently accessible location for the pantry.

“Hopefully, once the Maggie’s space is renovated, we could theoretically have a community food cabinet there where people could just take from there. Right now the only space we’ve been able to consistently have is thanks to Amy in the ReUse room, but that isn’t open to students all the time, it’s not like a come and go place, and so that’s why it has such limited (hours),” Thomas explained. “We’re also likely going to start having a box of food outside of the ReUse Room at all times, so people can come by.” 

Because the pantry is located in the ReUse room, a student worker needs to staff the room for all hours it is open, which presents a further monetary constraint.

In the future, the EIJC hopes to implement these changes. For now, all are encouraged to stop by and take what they need on Fridays, as well as to support the EIJC’s mission by leaving groceries for others to take.

“If you can contribute, please do,” MacWilliamson said.

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