By Karina Mazhukhina | May 12, 2016

For some UW students and even faculty choosing between eating a sufficient meal or paying for rent, books, or tuition is a daily struggle. In an effort to eliminate that choice altogether, the UW now offers an on-campus food pantry.  

During its grand opening last Monday the pantry was stocked with 954 food items, including 106 cans of fish, 80 cans of beans, and 276 cans of soups and stews. The pantry served about 10 to 15 people while it was open.

"Although it was small, Monday was a big success,” said Erica Weisman, co-manager of the ASUW Student Food Cooperative. "Ideally, the next two pantry dates will continue to increase in size and attendance.”

On Thursday, May 12, the pantry will reopen its doors to the UW community from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. in HUB 214. This time, over 1,000 food items are expected. Whatever food was left over from last week will also be distributed. In addition to various canned goods, cereal, cooking oil, and toiletries, the pantry will provide fresh produce from the UW Farm.

“The UW donated fresh cooked spinach, radishes, and all kinds of herbs,” said Weisman. “We also make sure we have enough vegetarian, vegan, and kosher options. Ideally, once we have a lot of items we would like to setup different sections for people who have specific diet restrictions. We’re really trying to specialize it as much as possible.”

Anyone who is affiliated with the UW can attend the pantry. Attendees are asked to present a Husky card before picking up food items. No other information is needed.

“We’re going to get a really good feel if people really do like these services,” said Erica. We’re going to implement these services permanently next academic year.”

The ASUW Food Cooperative, Student Life, and the Ethnic Cultural Center (ECC) will help host the pantry. The student organizations are deciding between hosting the pantry every two weeks or once a month in a sort of farmer’s market style setup come fall quarter.

“We’re creating a store front, which will be completely student run,” said Weisman. “Ideally, we would like to connect the pantry to the storefront. We will use the funds that we raise from the storefront to go back into the pantry and make it more sustainable."

The hope is to have the storefront up and running by next year. It will be in HUB 131.

As for now, the pantry will host its two remaining dates for the quarter. The last one will be held on May 16. The pantry relies on food drives and donations across campus, and has already managed to secure consistent support from UW groups like The Whole U, the UW Panhellenic Association, UW Fraternities, the UW Tower, and the Student Public Health Association.

If the public would like to donate imperishable food items, please stop by the IMA, ECC, Mary Gates Hall, the HUB, and the West Campus dorms to help restock the pantry.

“A lot of stigma surrounding food comes from language usage,” said Weisman. “Food is very personal to everyone on this planet in some way. Joking about someone’s food intake and teasing someone for what they eat is detrimental to someone’s identity. We don’t want anyone to be ashamed of what they eat and what they’re not able to eat."

She added, “We’re hoping the pantry can reduce stigma. We’re not here to ask questions or how food insecure you are. We’re just really excited for people to come.”