Students in need at The University of Texas at El Paso now have greater access to nonperishable and nutritious food. And the best part is the food is free.
The UTEP Food Pantry has expanded and relocated to Memorial Gym to provide food access to undergraduates and graduate students, faculty and staff.
“By having our students’ basic necessities met, they are more apt to stay in school, focus on their studies and be involved in student success-related activities such as internships, leadership positions and research,” said Catie McCorry-Andalis, Ed.D., associate vice president for student engagement and dean of students. “Consistently eating healthy, nutritious food is critical to their success.”
According to the Wisconsin HOPE Lab, more than 50 percent of community college students nationwide do not have access to healthy and affordable foods.
“Knowing that many students who face food insecurity are in the demographic we serve, it is clear the services we provide are needed,” McCorry-Andalis said.
She said an average of 200 students a month used the old food pantry which began operations in 2014 in a small room in Union Building West.
“We anticipate many more students will use the food pantry because it is now located in a convenient location,” she said.
The pantry is open to UTEP students. They may access the food pantry with their Miner Gold Card.
The food pantry was funded by a $100,000 private donation. Albertson’s also provided $5,000.
There are also regular food drives throughout the year. In addition, cash donations are accepted through the UTEP Food Pantry website. The money will be used to purchase food, market the pantry and fund initiatives that raise awareness about food insecurity.
The pantry is stocked with canned and boxed foods including tuna, chicken, soups, beans, pasta, vegetables, tomato sauce, cereal and granola bars.
The pantry is located in an open and inviting space in the lobby of Memorial Gym where a concession stand previously existed.
The center is staffed by six students.
“The service we provide is very needed on campus,” said Karen Barraza, who is working on her master’s degree in mental health counseling. “We are getting the opportunity to interact with the students, learning about their backgrounds, their issues and the needs they might have. Being able to help them connect with other services we have on campus has been a rewarding experience.”
Barraza, who oversees the pantry, said she sees students from various backgrounds.
“Besides the food, we have students who ask if there are financial services that might be available to them or where they can get toiletries, school supplies and things of that nature,” she said. “Our staff and supervisors are working to make the food pantry a ‘one stop’ where students not only come for food, but where we can direct them to other needs they might have and direct them to other resources on campus.”
Raneem Karboji, a senior nursing student and a Student Government Association senator, said it’s great to be able to give back to the students.
“I really hadn’t heard about food insecurity until a couple of semesters ago when I realized that my friend had a food insecurity,” she said. “Having seen my friend go through it really brought it home. People think it’s a certain part of town or no student really goes through it, but it’s really your classmates or your neighbors, so we need to check on each other. You never know what’s going on in other people’s lives.”
UTEP Food Pantry
Where: Memorial Gym, Room 105.
Hours: 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays; 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesdays; 8-10 a.m. and 12:30-5 p.m. Thursdays; 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Fridays.
Author: Victor Martinez – UTEP Communications