Food pantry struggles to adapt in pandemic


Joshua Balcerak

The food pantry sucked up during an Oct. 20 food drive. The pantry uses donations to feed PNW students in need.

The greatest challenge facing the university food pantry is not whether it can feed hungry students. It is whether it can adapt to changing times.

In response to the state’s COVID-19 restrictions, the pantry has had to shift its role.

“Originally, the pantry was focused on accommodating students in the dorms who were struggling to get by,”  said  Scott  Iverson,  executive director of  housing. 

“When the state introduced its restrictions because of the pandemic, I thought ‘This isn’t just an issue for people on campus as it affects a lot more in our community.’ As a result, we expected there was going to be a large influx of people all over frequenting the food pantry.” 

The pantry still helps students, who continue to be as cash-strapped as ever.

“A lot of students in the dorms simply don’t have extra money set aside for food to stock up each week,” said Mya Bell, a freshman majoring in Human Development and Family Studies and pantry volunteer. 

“Most of us must work jobs just to have money for food. Some of the stores’ stocks of food are sometimes low,” she said. “Hence, why we must have organizations like the food pantry running.” 

International students who live in the dorms often turn to the pantry for help. These students frequently do not know the area outside of campus. 

“Many of the international students come from the Middle East, Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia,” said sophomore Biology student Savannah Yamat, a pantry volunteer. “Not only are they in an entirely different society, they have to rely on local students to get around Hammond to find restaurants and stores.”

Bell said the pantry is also challenged by staffing shortages.

“We are short on volunteers as everyone has different schedules that conflict with pantry operations,” she said. “At times there are sometimes two to three people running the pantry as we are only open for three-to-four hours a day.” 

The pantry has two locations, one on each campus. The Hammond pantry is located at 2415 169th Street. The Westville pantry is in the former Dark Room at the Library Student Faculty building. 

Food donations can be made in-person at these locations. Online donations are made at the Institutional Advancement website ( under the ‘give’ button. A separate link is used for monetary donations. To contact the pantry, email [email protected].