Food Pantry sees dramatic increase in visitors since Fall 2021
Visitors have doubled since last semester, but they are still looking to extend outreach
Visitors at the Central Michigan University Student Food Pantry have doubled since last semester.
“Last semester, we were anywhere from 50 to 80 people per week, for all three of our distributions,” said Abbey Claes, graduate assistant and employee at the Food Pantry. “This week was about 120 students, and our highest week was just over 180.”
The food pantry reopened in Fall 2020 after closing in the spring due to COVID-19. Claes started working with the Food Pantry around the same time but said she has noticed the recent increase in visitors since last semester.
“When we first opened for this semester, we really weren't expecting such a huge increase,” she said. “We've done a lot the last (six weeks) to fix those issues and get students into the pantry much quicker, and make that experience much more streamlined.”
To expedite the shopping process, employees now hands out items to students in line and limit shopping time to 15 minutes.
"We give them reminders about how much time they have," Claes said. "As we have a smaller space, we have found the 15 minutes works well to get people in and out."
She said there is not usually a line at the food pantry, but there is sometimes a 30-45 minute wait after opening on busier days like Tuesdays and Fridays.
Claes said spreading awareness might be contributing to the increase in visitors at the pantry.
“Word of mouth is huge for us," she said. "So, people talking to their friends about using the pantry, bringing their friends with them, showing them how to use it, I think that's really the biggest part. I think we've just been doing a great job with educating campus about food insecurities and the Student Food Pantry, and how to use (it)."
Though the food pantry has seen an increase in visitors, students are still working to extend its outreach.
The Student Government Association is working to implement “A Legislative Bill to Relocate the Student Food Pantry to a Larger and More Accessible Space.” Claes supports the legislation and said a different location will help the pantry reach more students on campus.
“We're in a little weird corner of campus that can be pretty difficult to find,” Claes said. “So I think any new location would be very beneficial for us, just in helping students be able to find us.”
The food pantry is currently located underneath the Robinson Residential Restaurant near the North Campus Success Center.
The food pantry is open Tuesday 5 - 7 p.m., Wednesday 3 - 5 p.m. and Friday 12 - 3 p.m. Students can register for a time to visit the food pantry through Engage Central's Student Food Pantry Request Form.