UW Retirement Association

Addressing Students’ Food Insecurity: My UW Food Pantry Experience

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by Margi Wadden, retired Administrative Operations Director, Office  of Chief System Officer, Harborview Medical Center  

UW’s Food Pantry, part of the Any Hungry Husky program, helps students with insufficient funds to access groceries. Surprisingly, food insecurity is not an inconsequential issue on campus. Indicators suggest that it is a growing problem. In fall quarter of 2016 when the Division of Student Life first launched the UW Food Pantry, 265 UW students were served and 2000 pounds of food was distributed. Since then the numbers of donations and people served continue to increase. The pop-up pantries, located on the Seattle campus at the HUB and Ethnic Cultural Center, take place every two weeks throughout the academic year. The food comes mostly from donations, both food and monetary. (Read the rest of the report HERE.)

After learning about the Any Hungry Husky program, I decided to volunteer at one of the pantries to learn more. Signing up is a very simple process. I simply contacted Campus Pantry – Student Life (uwpantry@uw.edu). Program coordinator Sophie Htet sent me an informative training video and the link to sign up for a volunteer shift that fit my schedule.

Several positions need to be filled to make each pop-up event a success. I took on a role in the day-of operations to learn more about the logistics, supply and demand of the initiative. Here is what I learned:

  • All the volunteers (students, staff and retirees) were energetic and welcoming. The enthusiasm is contagious.
  • A line began to form 30 minutes before the pantry opened.
  • The storage room where the non-perishable foods are stored was well stocked for the event and arranged by food/item category. It is restocked every two weeks.
  • Students took their time shopping and reading the product labels as they looked for the most nutritious food.
  • Suggested per shopper limits were respected.
  • Stories about how the pantry helps make ends meet were shared.
  • Appreciation was abundant.
  • The Student Life coordinator was always available and on top of every organizational detail.
  • THE PANTRIES CANNOT HAPPEN WITHOUT VOLUNTEERS.

UW Encore plans to have a group of retirees at the February 21st pantry at the HUB (two hour shifts from 11am to 3pm). Please consider being part of this effort to ensure that no Husky goes hungry during her/his pursuit of knowledge, skills and a bright future. Contact uwpantry@uw.edu today.