The Portland State Food Pantry offers students a helping hand in addressing hunger. Located in their new home in the Smith Memorial Student Union basement, the student-run resource is available to all current students, providing a small daily allotment of free food to those in need.
We spoke with Food Pantry Coordinator Liddy Champion about her work with the pantry and about how students and faculty can get involved.
Jeoffry Ray: Can you offer a little introduction to the food Pantry?
Liddy Champion: The food pantry is a student operated service on campus. Any current student can come in once a day and get five items. Bread and produce and other perishables do not count toward the five-item limit. We’re an Oregon Food Bank partner agency—the vast majority of our products come through the Oregon Food bank. We usually have milk, lots of canned goods, peanut butter, mac and cheese. We always try to provide proteins, both meat and non-meat, as well as perishables and non-perishables.
JR: What does food insecurity currently look like at PSU?
LC: I see it as a really significant problem at PSU and more generally in the city and the country as a whole. I think the current situation of food insecurity at PSU is reflective of a larger issue. It’s reflective of the struggle for students to pay the cost of college in general. Food insecurity is just one system of a larger problem.
JR: What can a student do to support the Food pantry or make donations?
LC: Different students have different ranges of time and ability to give back right now. Something that any student can do is they can like our Facebook page or share our posts. I think a lot of students don’t realize how much their peers might be struggling. Even if they aren’t interested in the resource, it might be helpful for others [in their network] to learn about. People can donate by bringing items into the pantry during operating hours.
We encourage students and faculty to donate and volunteer. We also recommend for those that are able to offer monetary donations. We realize that students and faculty often have limited means, but because of our relationship to the Oregon Food Bank, a dollar goes a lot further when donated directly to the pantry rather than spent at the grocery store.
If someone is a student, staff or faculty, and they have access to a vehicle and a valid driver’s license, because we have to bring the food to campus ourselves, people that would be interested in volunteering in that capacity would be really helpful.
JR: What other campus resources are available to students experiencing food insecurity?
LC: There is Harvest Share, which is the second Monday of every month. There are also the resource centers—even if you’re not sure how they can help you, it’s always worth asking. Whether it’s the Center for Students with Children, the Women’s Resource Center, the Queer Resource Center, it’s always worth asking the people on staff, they are always very helpful.
JR: Are there any big projects or pushes we should know about?
LC: The last big project was moving to a larger space, we’re just getting settled in there. We’ll also be hiring more students soon. Currently I am the only hired staff member, and clearly that can be a bit of a challenge. So I’m definitely looking forward to hiring on additional staff. There will still be the coordinator position, which I would love to keep, but we’ll see how that goes. We will also be hiring two other people. One will be a volunteer coordinator, who will help with our volunteer staff. [We will also hire] an ops coordinator. The ops coordinator will be in charge of getting food from point a to point b.
JR: What other information do you think students should know?
LC: One question we often get is whether we’re open during summer. The answer is yes. The only time we are closed is during the breaks between terms, national holidays recognized by PSU and the occasional emergency.
Another thing to point out is that we do not collect any personal information from students. Students are often concerned that they will have to fill out a form to use the pantry. All we do is ask current students for an ID card just to check. Other than asking if they are currently a student and if they’ve used the pantry before, we only track and weigh the items checked out, as it is important for us to track what we’ve given away in pounds.
The PSU Food Pantry will also host a working party for Earth Day of Service on Saturday, April 23.
PSU Food Pantry
Smith Memorial Student Union basement, room 047
Mon-Fri 12:30-2:30 p.m.
By the numbers:
Unique student clients (Summer 2015-Current)
90 percent return clients
Number of food checkouts (Fall 2015) 4,042
Serves about 100 students per day
Busiest day: 146 (Oct. 26, 2015)