Jeffrey Broggi, associate dean of students, said the Rutgers Student Food Pantry has continued to be a great resource to support students who are struggling with basic needs insecurity through advertising changes in hours of operations and adapting its distribution model to follow safety and health guidelines.</figure>
The Rutgers Student Food Pantry has remained open during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. Following the University’s shutdown during the Spring 2020 semester, the food pantry has had to operate under adjusted hours, said Kerri Wilson, the director of the Off-Campus Living and Community Partnerships.
“We did change our operations. Previously our pantry was open Monday-Friday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and we utilized a ‘client choice model’ — essentially students were able to come into the pantry and shop. The model was not manageable in relation to social distancing,” Wilson said. “We now pre-pack bags and distribute them to students by appointment on select days during the week from a temporary location in the College (Avenue) Student Center.”
Wilson said there is now a mobile food pantry, where food is distributed from parking lots on the other four Rutgers campuses. Students interested in making an appointment must use the online application sign-up genius, she said.
The food pantry is also available to students who do not live near New Brunswick as long as they are able to get to campus, Wilson said. The food pantry will also contact resources in the students' local community if they cannot make it to campus, she said. Additionally, the Rutgers—Newark campus has a food pantry that is currently open and operating.
The Rutgers Student Food Pantry began in 2016 to help serve Rutgers students who may be food insecure and currently operates out of the Rutgers Graduate Students Lounge on the College Avenue campus, according to its website.
Being food insecure is having limited or uncertain access to sufficient quantities of food, and there is growing evidence that food insecurity among students is a problem on college campuses around the country and even in New Brunswick, according to the website.
The food pantry receives donations from Rutgers Against Hunger, Middlesex County Food Organization and Outreach Distribution Services and private donations, according to the website.
Wilson said the pantry is still accepting private donations, but most of its donations come from student organizations. With remote learning and student organizations not active on campus, Wilson said they know they will not get the same support from food drives and have faced an increase in expenses.
“It’s so important for students to know this is a resource available to them, particularly for students who are newly food insecure,” Wilson said. “It’s an unprecedented time in our lives and it is imperative students know it is ok to ask for help — the food pantry is available to every student.”
While the pantry is not currently accepting in-person volunteers, Wilson said students can still help by promoting the pantry’s services. Students can become a “social media ambassador,” where they follow the pantry’s social media accounts and share information to de-stigmatize the idea of utilizing a food pantry.
Jeffrey Broggi, associate dean of students, said his office is working closely with the Off-Campus Living and Community Partnership.
“(Wilson) and her team have been a tremendous resource for students and have worked hard to support students with basic needs insecurity,” he said. “They have been continuously advertising any changes in hours of operation to keep students informed of their services, as well as adapting their distribution model to follow the latest safety guidelines and recommendations.”
Broggi said in addition to food delivery, the Rutgers Student Food Pantry has assisted the Dean of Students with the distribution of laptops and food cards for students who have had difficulty meeting basic needs during remote learning.