Following a March closure due to COVID, the Boise State Food Pantry is reopening to students on Sept. 2 in a new, larger space – the former art gallery located in the Campus School. The Food Pantry’s hours will be 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.
The larger space will allow the pantry to stock more items – both food and hygiene products – and serve students while maintaining appropriate physical distancing. Students simply need their student ID to visit the pantry; there is no limit to the number of visits or the amount of food they can take.
“We’ve also just finalized a partnership with the Idaho Food Bank, which will allow us to bring in more food, of more variety, at no cost because they’re a nonprofit,” said Lauren Oe, associate dean of students at Boise State. “That allows us to think about how we can use our funds and donations in a more intentional way. For instance, in better serving populations that have unique dietary needs, or international students who have very different staple foods than we do in the U.S.”
In a fall 2018 survey completed by 820 Boise State students, 36 percent reported being food insecure. In the past year, the number of students utilizing the food pantry has dramatically increased. During fall semester 2018, only 194 students utilized the Food Pantry. By contrast, during fall semester 2019, the Food Pantry served 598 students, with a monthly average of 119 students.
“It’s important to help students feel that they’re not alone,” said Sara Thomas, a senior majoring in communication and president of Swipe out Hunger, which collects unused meal swipes that students can redeem at the Boise River Cafe. “This welcomes students with open arms and makes them know that they’re cared about.”
“Physically being in the space all the time, as well as my own personal experience of paying for school by myself and not having the support systems that most students have, I’ve seen how important it is to be able to access all of these resources on campus,” said Emily Hester, a senior double majoring in business administration and sociology, who works on campus as the Food Pantry operations and sustainability coordinator. “People really depend on it.”
Supporting students through the pandemic and beyond
In past semesters, the Food Pantry also has partnered with the Idaho Food Bank and Associated Students of Boise State University (ASBSU) to host mobile food pantries on the Quad. On one day, the mobile pantry served a record 416 students with more than 3,000 pounds of food.
“Encouraging students on the Quad to come and get food and watch them be amazed that this is a resource for them, it’s touching,” said Kendra Pantenburg, a junior studying psychology, member of ASBSU, and a BroncoFit Peer Educator. “It always was the best part of my week. They’re really affected by it.”
Although the Food Pantry was forced to close during the spring 2020 semester due to COVID, staff partnered with Albertsons to give food insecure students $25 gift cards each week through the end of the semester. Their efforts resulted in 1,141 gift cards being distributed for a total of $28,850.
Those interested in helping support the Food Pantry can donate here.