As an international student and instructor for undergraduate students, Eduardo Soares oftentimes struggles to stretch his budget to cover his needs.
“All of the money I make comes from the U,” Soares said. “The amount of money I receive is very limited.”
Soares depends on the Feed U Food Pantry for sustenance. Without it, he said he is not sure if he could make it from paycheck to paycheck.
“The food pantry makes a huge difference for me,” Soares said. “It’s a small support that preserves my bank account until the end of the month.”
The U’s food pantry has distributed approximately 15,000 pounds of food and served around 1,500 members of the university community since it opened its doors in the basement of the Union Building in October 2014, according to executive director Nick Knight. This year, it is launching a number of initiatives to increase access to food and products offered by the organization.
On Jan. 11, volunteers stood side-by-side in assembly-line fashion to put together the food pantry’s first hygiene kits, which are to be distributed at student resource offices throughout campus.
In an effort to ensure that U students, faculty and staff can provide for their families, too, the food pantry launched the Hook a Baby Up Drive. It aims to fill the shelf space under stacks of SpaghettiOs and jars of peanut butter with diapers, formula and food for babies.
The project the food pantry anticipates will have the most impact is a “to-go” initiative to store bags of non-perishable groceries at the front desk in the Union Building. These will be retrievable during hours that the food pantry is closed, which vary as the operation is dependent on volunteers.
“We are completely volunteer-run, so it can’t happen unless volunteers come in,” Knight said.
The food pantry is constantly seeking more volunteers. Knight said all volunteers are asked to commit to running the food pantry for at least one hour per week, and he encourages anyone interested in working there to sign up on its website.
As the food pantry hopes for more volunteers, it is also always looking for donations.
“We try to be as self-sufficient as possible,” Knight said.
Anyone with a U card is eligible to receive help from the food pantry as long as they are willing to fill out a form with basic information.
“We strive to empower those in need to obtain food resources so they may focus on being healthy, happy, and successful at the University of Utah without the barrier of fighting hunger,” read the food pantry’s mission statement.
According to Knight, some members of the U community who come to the food pantry only need to access it once, while others, like Soares, are confronting chronic food insecurity and need access on a consistent basis.
“If I can come and save $50, it’s a huge help,” Soares said.