Wesley Food Pantry repacks rice in “day of service” for community

Emma Gray 

Editor

The Wesley Food Pantry at Parkland held a rice and bean repack on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, as they have done for the last few years.

Due to the snow the repack started a few minutes late, but the old cafeteria in the X-wing was still full of volunteers. Parkland staff members, students, and community members worked to repack large bags of rice and beans into smaller bags to be distributed at Parkland’s food pantry. People of all ages came, including many children who scooped rice into bags before adults put them in the press to seal them.

The pantry partners with Parkland to hold “days of service” like this two or three times a year. In the future, the pantry is looking at doing another repack similar to this one sometime during the spring semester according to the director of the food pantry Katie Thomas.

The goal of the Wesley Food Pantry is to provide students and community members with food to help fight food insecurity. The pantry also strives to help with other issues their clients might have. One way the Parkland site does this is by giving out books for children. According to Thomas parents are able to get up to three free books at the pantry. In the past the pantry has also handed out free school supplies to parents.

The food pantry occasionally has other resources like nutrition classes available for clients and usually has fliers with information on other resources available around town. For information on resources like this, clients simply need to ask at the pantry.

The only requirement to use the pantry at Parkland is photo identification. The pantry requires this so that it can keep track of how many people it is serving and how many times a person has come to the pantry. Patrons are only permitted to visit the pantry at either of its two locations twice a month.

For patrons who do plan on attending the pantry twice in a given month, Thomas suggest that they try to attend once at Parkland and once at the Wesley Student Center because the two locations have slightly different food choices available. The Parkland location is a USDA commodity pantry and so it has more things like frozen chicken and canned pork than the other location.

Both pantries are set up like grocery stores so that clients pick what food they want. Clients at the Parkland pantry are not limited in how much food they can take, but are limited in how much of any item they may have, according to Thomas.

The food pantry has been open since 2006 but has only had a second location at Parkland since the fall of 2013 when it opened to help students once a month in the S-building.

Thomas said there was a “recognition of growing food insecurity of college students,” which prompted the pantry to go to Parkland.

In the 2014 the pantry became a USDA commodity pantry and opened its services to everyone weekly. In January of 2017 the pantry moved into the M-wing where it currently is.

Parkland’s food pantry has grown in size tremendously this last year, according to Thomas. She estimates that now the pantry serves between 200–250 families a month whereas they used to serve only 40–50 families a few years ago.

The food pantry relies on the help of volunteers to set up and run the pantry and is always looking for new volunteers. Dawn Longfellow, the operations manager of the Wesley Food Pantry, says they run the Parkland Pantry with four to six volunteers. Volunteers are given a half-hour of training before and a brief orientation.

“The main thing we ask of volunteers is to be warm, welcoming, and helpful,” said Longfellow.

While volunteering students can gain experience and learn more about their local community and the pantry.

“I think the biggest lesson to take away from volunteering comes from breaking the stereotypes we each have in our minds about who might need to use a food pantry,” Longfellow said. “The reality is our clients are extremely diverse in age, nationality, eating preferences, and family size. It is not unusual for a volunteer to need food or a client to volunteer. We are all more similar and closer to needing help than we think.”

The Wesley Food Pantry’s location at Parkland College in M138 is open every Wednesday 11 a.m.–1 p.m. and the first and third Saturday of each month 10 a.m.–12 p.m. The food pantry also has its original location at the Wesley Student Center on Green St. and Goodwin Ave. which is open to everyone 5:30–7:30 p.m. every Thursday and open exclusively to students with a student ID the first Monday of every month 3–5 p.m.

For more information on the Wesley Food Pantry, visit wesleypantry.org.