Graduate student William Solis spends his Tuesdays and Wednesdays restocking the shelves of a food pantry in DM for his fellow Panthers. The labor of love is a chance to put food on the table for less-fortunate students, the ones who need a helping hand when paying for tuition and books takes priority over groceries.
Solis, who serves as a graduate assistant at the Center for Leadership and Service within Student Affairs, worked with other students to establish the food pantry at MMC through the Academy of Leaders, a student leadership development program. They based their idea on the success of the pantry at BBC, and the fact that the number of food pantries in the United States is on the rise.
The pantry, which opened its doors in October 2014, is a source for non-perishable food items on campus. It runs on the honor system, meaning no one will ever ask about students’ home lives or economic situations when visiting the pantry. They need only present a Panther I.D. card and can visit once per week, taking up to 10 pounds of food each visit.
Solis said that although they do not ask students to disclose personal information, he suspects that the majority live in the residence halls on campus. Others are directed to the pantry from various departments.
Wallace, a junior majoring in math who did not wish to disclose his full name, lives in the residence halls and said he’s visited the pantry on a weekly basis this summer.
“Thank you so much to whoever had this idea,” he said. “I don’t really have a decent source of income to buy food with, so this is really good to get something to eat.”
For students who may be hesitant about using the food pantry, Wallace offered this advice: “It’s kind of easy to want to uphold a reputation and not really seem like a needy person, but truth be told, I’d much rather seem needy than seem starved to death. It’s not a bad thing at all.”
The pantry runs on donations, and because a busy day can see as many as 25 visitors, canned and boxed foods, bottled drinks and more are accepted on a continuous basis.
“We’ve been very fortunate to get a lot of donations here,” Solis said.
The pantry’s biggest recent hauls have come from Housing and Residential Life, which collected packaged food donated by students as they vacated their dorms. The FIU Women’s Center even donated boxes of feminine products.
“What we need more than anything though, if you ask me, is pastas, cereal and canned items that are easy to open,” Solis said. He says single-serving ramen noodle packages—which already line several shelves— don’t offer but one poor meal, but a box of cereal or a pound of pasta can make multiple meals.
Solis said a university-wide food drive is in the works for this November during National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness week, but collection boxes can always be found in departmental offices throughout the university and in the pantry, located in DM 166.
Volunteers are also needed to help staff the pantry when Solis and his partners are not available to work. Students can sign up through Roary’s Community Calendar.
“I’ve been told several times by students that they appreciate this being here, because they don’t have the resources to get food,” said Solis. “So from my end, it just makes it more rewarding to know that what I already enjoy doing, someone is appreciating.”
The MMC food pantry is located in DM 166, and it is open Wednesdays from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. during the summer semester. During the fall and spring semesters, the pantry is open Tuesdays from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. and Wednesdays from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. For more information, call (305) 348-6995.
The BBC food pantry is located in WUC 307, and it is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, call (305) 919-5307.