In line with other colleges and universities across the U.S., the University of Arizona is introducing an emergency food pantry for students, faculty and staff.
To help UA students and employees with immediate food needs, a group established the UA Campus Pantry, which will launch Feb. 1 on the first floor of El Portal, the site for Residence Life offices. The idea to launch a pantry came from UA Residence Life staff in the fall.
"There was a strong message that we needed this on campus," said C. Michelle Sun, the Campus Pantry adviser.
During the Feb. 1 opening, anyone with a valid CatCard will be able to access donated food items from the Campus Pantry inventory from 3-6 p.m. The pantry will be open at the same time and location on March 1 and April 5.
Mariel Wilk, a UA sophomore who is director of outreach for the pantry and studying elementary education, said the group was especially encouraged that other campuses had introduced comparable programs. Among them are Utah State, Michigan State, the University of Georgia, Florida State and the University of Colorado, Denver.
No such program existed previously at the UA, but that did not discourage the Campus Pantry board of volunteers, Wilk said, adding that the team connected with other campuses to share ideas, which helped to initiate the project.
At the UA, the newly formed organization is focusing on those who are at a high risk of going hungry.
"College is already stressful enough. People should not have to worry about going hungry," said John Beeler, a UA Honors College sophomore studying business who chairs the Campus Pantry, which promotes food security awareness, activism, outreach and building a strong community.
Visiting the food pantry should be like a regular shopping experience for attendees. Users will be able to pick out food as if they are at a grocery store. Also, the Campus Pantry is meant to be inclusive and welcoming to all so that no one feels shy about needing to stop by and grab something, the team said.
The UA Campus Pantry is always accepting donations in the form of non-perishable food items that either are canned or dried. Food items that can be quickly and easily made are needed the most.
So far, the team has collected about 350 pounds of food for the pantry. Donations thus far have come through food drives and donations on campus, said Davis Bauer, UA Eller College of Management junior and the Campus Pantry's marketing director.
Also, the food pantry will be completely anonymous, so those who access it will feel comfortable.
"It is not a shameful thing to be at risk of becoming hungry," Beeler said, adding that it is important that people know they are not alone; help is available.
Users are allocated a certain amount of points to use, and different food items will have point values assigned based on nutritional value, how filling they are and how long they last. For example, packages of Ramen noodles are given one point, canned beans would be two points and soup would receive three points.
With the Campus Pantry slated to open, board members now are working toward finding a more permanent location and are in the process of obtaining a non-profit organization status. The group also eventually hopes provide refrigerated items.
"The UA's campus culture really emphasizes social responsibility," Beeler said.
"It's a value the UA instills in its students, especially with regard to vulnerability," he said. "We don't want people to feel ashamed just because they can't get food. They're not alone."
La Monica Everett-Haynes contributed to this article.