A. Ray Olpin University Union

The University of Utah

A photo of the Union in fall.

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    Food Pantry Moves to the Union

    Pictured from left to right: Union Director Whit Hollis, Assistant Vice President Dr. Sandi Pershing, & Pantry Manager Nick Knight.

    Coming up on the 2nd year anniversary, the Feed U Food Pantry at the University of Utah is a program crafted to engage and fulfill the duty of making sure no individuals at the university go hungry. With the program’s beginnings crafted by the Office of Engagement with the wildly successful “Kitchen Shelves Project” in 2014, students at the university enjoyed the opportunity to enjoy healthy food options. Dr. Sandi Pershing, Assistant Vice President of Continuing Education and a professor in the Master of Public Administration program, gave us the opportunity to sit down and discuss the beginnings and continuing development of the Feed U Pantry. “The Kitchen Shelves project was wildly successful, often featuring healthy options from Costco. Many students saw the program as life changing,” Dr. Pershing commented. Aided by both students and local off campus organizations, Dr. Pershing wanted to continue the proactive work that the Kitchen Shelves project had brought about. “We always want to make the university a welcoming place. After seeing the food pantry at the Bishops’ storehouse of the Church of the Latter-day Saints, we knew we wanted to perform the same aide on campus.” Moving from a small space at the campus bookstore, the formation of the Feed U Food Pantry on the bottom level of the A. Ray Olpin University Union has been greatly received. Serving about 70+ people a week, the transition to the new space in the building has brought on increased awareness for the need of a campus food pantry, influencing and developing even more future plans for the space.

    Nick Knight, currently the student volunteer for the Feed U Food Pantry, allowed us to sit down with him and discuss the pantry’s current space. “The central location of the pantry has been great for both clients and volunteers, making it easy to access,” Mr. Knight commented. Additionally, traffic to the pantry has been increasing and individuals have felt more freely to come into the space. The new space within the Union now houses refrigeration units, shared with university dining services, a role that Chuck Weaver, Director, played a role in. “They offered the refrigeration space to us and we couldn’t say no. This gives us more options to give to individuals who come to the pantry,” Mr. Knight stated. Some of the items that individuals can currently find include boxed meals, cereal, dry pasta, and several other food items as well as hygiene items including laundry detergent, soap, toothpaste, shampoo, etc. “Check our website for donation information, but people are always welcomed to drop items off at the pantry or leave them with the dining services office outside of pantry hours. We also accept monetary donations which can be given through the UGive website,” Mr. Knight concluded. Mr. Knight also discussed how he is excited for future plans of the pantry, including ideas such as increased sustainability projects, healthier options, and a surplus of marketing for a projected future space.

    When asked about holiday break renovation plans for the Feed U Food Pantry space within the Union building, Dr. Sandi Pershing shared a surplus of physical changes as well as future programming. Some items that will be introduced in the new space include more freezer space, new floors, raised ceilings, new paint, giving the space its own look and feel to create a “bright and open” grocery store shopping experience. With this, Dr. Pershing also spoke about including a lobby area that would be a modular space for individuals to partake in healthy eating workshops, including a study space cooking classes. “We want to destigmatize the idea of people accepting assistance when they need it,” Dr. Pershing commented. Furthermore, the space would also feature appliances, such as a microcart to house demonstrations of food prep. When asked about the continuing funding of both the renovation and programming at the Feed U Food Pantry, Dr. Pershing discussed how an amendment written by ASUU in the red book will allocate yearly funds, as well as donations provided by both alumni and individuals within the Salt Lake City community, often assisted by Barb Snyder, Vice President of Student Affairs, and Fred Esplin, Vice President of Univeristy Relations. This also includes annual food drives at the University Credit Union locations to stock the shelves of the pantry. After the completion of the space next spring semester, Dr. Pershing additionally stated that she is excited for plans to bring in local chefs in the community to cook for individuals and provide informative knowledge about food preparation. The Feed U Food Pantry is hoping to include more regulatory proceedings after the completion of the renovation, including a full time 20-hour staff to help with all the exciting new plans.

    – By Blake Bratcher

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