The Food Pantry at Iowa, which serves members of the University of Iowa community, will receive $25,000 from the University Student Government’s contingency fund. The UI Undergraduate Student Government (USG) voted to direct those funds to the pantry during its meeting on Tuesday, the Daily Iowan reported.
The contingency fund “supports larger-scale projects that help university staff, students, and community,” the DI explained.
The Food Pantry at Iowa is open to anyone with a university ID — not just students, but also faculty and staff. It was founded by a group of UI students in 2016. The pantry is still student-run, and is overseen by Steph Beecher, the basic needs coordinator in the Office of the Dean of Students. It receives funding from the UI Faculty Senate, Undergraduate Student Government, the Office of the Dean of Students (which pays for Beecher’s position) and the Center for Advancement, but the amount can change year to year.
Pantry use by UI community members was relatively low prior to the pandemic, Beecher told Little Village in November. But the number of pantry visits jumped in the fall 2020 semester, topping 500 visits for the first time, remaining at that level throughout 2021 before increasing again in 2022. Beecher attributed the recent rise to COVID-19, economic inflation and more awareness of the food pantry. Students, faculty and staff are less ashamed and more willing to seek help, she said.
“The need’s always been there. COVID just kind of peeled back the layer to allow us to see that need and to serve that need,” Beecher said. “I think there’s pandemic lingerings, which also feeds into inflation, for sure.”
Rising food prices are another challenge the pantry is facing.
“With inflation, it’s just the costs are insane, and so that’s what we’re battling right now,” Beecher told USG members during the meeting on Tuesday.
Increasing costs has led the pantry to change its major food supplier. Instead of using Walmart, as it had in the past, the pantry is now buying in bulk from Martin Brothers, the same firm UI University Housing and Dining uses. The pantry also works with Table to Table and Hawkeye Area Community Action Program to get the canned good and fresh fruit and vegetables to stock it shelfs.
The Food Pantry at Iowa has two locations, one at the Iowa Memorial Union and the other at the Pride Alliance Center. Hours for both locations are available on the pantry’s website. Anyone with questions about its services can contact the pantry via email or by calling 319-335-1162.