UNCW food pantry opens to combat student hunger


Travis Stoker

Catholic Campus Ministry, home of the UNCW Food Pantry.

Fairley Lloyd, Assistant News Editor

A food pantry for UNC Wilmington students opened Thursday by the school’s Office of Leadership and Engagement, Catholic Campus Ministry and the Food Bank of Central and East North Carolina.

“This is really the first formal pantry that UNCW has had,” said Jaime Russell, director of OSLE. “We heard — anecdotally — from staff and faculty around campus that students were telling them they had not gotten a chance to eat one day, they weren’t sure if they had food at home, or they couldn’t buy food because they hadn’t received their paycheck yet.”

The food pantry is located at the Newman Center, 4802 College Acres Drive, where the Catholic Campus Ministry is housed.

In what Russell described as a “community effort,” she collaborated with many UNCW faculty members, including Amelia “Kit” Huelskamp, assistant professor at the School of Health and Applied Human Sciences, and Jill Waity, assistant professor of sociology at the Sociology and Criminology department.

Last year, Waity and her colleagues adapted a survey from a contact regarding food insecurity and sent it out to 20 to 25 percent of students. About 547 students responded, with seven percent reporting that they do not always get enough food to eat in a day.

“Many students said they would skip meals, eat less to make their groceries stretch, or attend campus events with free food,” Russell said. “Some days, they would not eat at all.”

Feeling that there was a significant need for food assistance, Russell and her peers spoke with the Food Bank CENC. The Food Bank, which has a small budget set aside for school pantries, agreed to help after viewing the results of the survey. The bank then gave them funding to use for purchasing from the food banks to store at the university’s pantry.

“It’s kind of like how a bank would be,” Russell said, referring to purchasing at the food bank. “You go in and you give them your money, and then you take home your deposit.”

Rosemary McNamara, who works at the campus ministry, oversees the food pantry at the house. Russell described her as a “huge student advocate” who welcomed housing the pantry at the ministry.

“A lot of times, people think they need to do something on a large scale to help,” McNamara said. “Then they realize they can’t do it, so they don’t do anything. But everything helps. Even something small can do so much help.”

Both women assured that there is nothing to be ashamed of when it comes to needing food aid, saying that it is a common issue for many students.

“Sometimes people just need help,” McNamara said. Drop-in hours are on Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Students are only required to show their school IDs and list how many people they’re providing for, whether it’s one person or their families, so volunteers at the pantry can get a better idea on how best to serve students.

McNamara further explained that listing the students who visited the pantry would be reported back to the Food Bank to see how many people they are serving. If students cannot stop by during hours, they can schedule appointments by calling 910-792-0507.

There are currently no volunteer positions open during pantry hours. McNamara and Russell explained this was out of respect of privacy for students seeking food.

“It’s modest but respectful,” McNamara said.

While there are no volunteer opportunities currently available, people can help in other ways. People can donate canned food to the pantry. The website for the food pantry lists the most needed foods.

They are also encouraged to volunteer with the Food Bank CENC.

Additionally, OSLE is volunteering with the Food Bank for this year’s Dean’s Day of Service. The event will take place on Friday, March 29, at Cape Fear Habitat for Humanity from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.