Temple’s Cherry Pantry is helping combat hunger on campus

TSG and Challah for Hunger is having an event tonight to spread awareness about the food pantry

For many college students across the country, food insecurity is nothing new. In recent studies, 15% of students surveyed were food insecure and 16% were at risk of food insecurity while students who were African American, other race/ethnicity, receiving multiple forms of financial aid, or experiencing housing problems—were more likely to be food insecure or at the risk of food insecurity.

On January 29th, Temple University announced its plans to open a food pantry, the Cherry Pantry, on the second floor of the Howard Gittis Student Center. This allows students and other members of the university community to visit the pantry and select items they need free of charge.

As Temple is supporting efforts to help students with food insecurity, The Tab Temple interviewed Sarah Levine who is the student manager of the Cherry Pantry and the significance of this pantry.

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Sarah Levine at the Cherry Pantry

For Sarah, combating food insecurity is more than fighting it on Temple's campus but also across the country. She has fought for food insecurity on the national level speaking at the very first congressional briefing on food insecurity on college campuses.

Through her student advocacy at Temple, she's been invited to speak as a student panelist at the first-ever legislative briefing on college student hunger at Capitol Hill, where the issue of how to alleviate food insecurity on college campuses was discussed with a group of experts, advocates, and legislators.

With the help of Sarah, her insight helped Congress Representative Danny K Davis and Representative Al Lawson Jr in their efforts to bring awareness to the 'College Student Hunger Act of 2017' and the 'Foster and Homeless Youth Food Security Act of 2017.'

So tell me a little about yourself?

My name is Sarah B Levine. I'm an honors student major in neuroscience and minor in political economy. I am graduating in May and Senior Class Parliament representative for TSG. I am also Dr. Sara Goldrick-Rab work study student where I help her with student liaison stuff.

How did the idea of Cherry Pantry come about?

Food insecurity has been an underlying theme of my time at Temple. Food insecurity is the lack of a reliable and sustainable access to nutritious food. My personal experiences were those in which, it became a luxury to “grab coffee” with a professor or a peer.

Although I worked jobs while balancing schoolwork, I needed to pay tuition and bills. As a first-generation college student, I had a higher risk of dropping out if I took time off to save money. I couldn’t work the hours needed to qualify for SNAP due to balancing schoolwork. I also didn’t have the money, time, or energy to go to Philabundance (a Philadelphia food pantry). I felt it also reinforced gentrification that as a college student, I should not be taking those community resources. The conversation finally started at Temple University when Dr. Sara Goldrick-Rab joined the Temple community. Her research hit home and I am proud to be her work-study student.

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Sarah Levine and Dr. Sara Goldrick-Rab

She led the research that found 35% of Temple University undergraduates are food insecure. Food pantries are on over 500 college campuses all across the country many of who are registered with the College and University Food Bank Alliance that was created by Clare Cady, another member of the Temple Community. Food insecurity is a systematic issue and we can't food bank/pantry it away (quote Dr. Goldrick-Rab and Clare Cady often say). But, it is a huge milestone to create this resource for the Temple community.

Could you explain what this pantry is and what students should expect?

The food pantry was established through the Provost office and is operated through the Division of Student Affairs.

It is meant to address the needs of the Temple community for supply as nutritious food as possible. We accept donations both monetary and food wise. Currently we take only nonperishables because we are still working towards establishing support for perishable items (electrical support for the area as well as refrigeration etc).

It is my goal for students to expect a non-judgmental stigma free area.

I want for them to feel no different going to the pantry as they would go food shopping. The goal is for them to not only not go hungry but, not feel ashamed of themselves. Food is at the base of Maslow's hierarchy of needs and no one should feel any negative connotation from needing food. When people come in they will swipe their active Temple ID, be given a bag and if need be guided through the available options. As we get on our feet we will be testing out a point system for different items.

Currently the hours of operation will be Tuesday and Wednesday 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. and Thursdays 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Mondays 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. will be designated drop off days where we will be prepping the pantry for the week. The pantry will be run by student volunteers, which I will help train alongside administration. This is so the volunteers working the pantry are adept in food insecurities personal complexities and not just statistics. People suffering from food insecurity, are just that—people. They can expect to be treated with dignity and respect. Anyone interested in volunteering should first contact Michelle Martin in Student Affairs ([email protected]) and also visit our Facebook and Twitter.

Why did you decide to be part of the task force for this pantry?

I was part of the task force through student advocacy. Through my first-hand experience, I understood the underpinnings of what it meant to be food insecure. I know Temple's campus and culture for the student body. I never really decided to be a part of the task-force. It was an honor to help advocate for students and will continue to speak up if I don't think an idea, although with the best of intentions, will relay well to student life. My role in sitting on the Task Force came predominantly from my work with TSG. Tyrell (Temple's student body president) and I first met during his campaign for TSG and we had discussed food insecurity because it was on their platform.

How long did it take to have this pantry at Temple?

The pantry has been in the works for about a year and a half. Tyrell's campaign discussed it on his platform and around the same time, Dr. Goldrick-Rab came to Temple and these ideas began to circulate on all fronts.

You mentioned how you’re going to monitor the pantry, do you have any goals for this semester?

I know what the weight on one's shoulders feels like when going to a food pantry has become your only option for food. There is so much guilt, shame, and stigma in our culture that if you can't feed yourself or your family, it is your fault. My goal for the pantry is to make sure those thoughts and feelings are left at the door to create a space on campus for food insecure students to feel dignified with having their needs met.

Why should Temple students be aware of the Cherry Pantry?

Students should be aware of the Cherry Pantry because it not only is there to support them but, it can help give insight into what is affecting their peers. Food insecurity is something that does not discriminate against age, gender, race and it can be an important place of unifying people outside of their day-to-day norms.

To have a food pantry designated to serve a college campus does not undermine or discount rampant food insecurity around other communities and around the globe. It is important to understand how food insecurity affects everyone including in the case of college students, who already face social pressures and promises that for many higher education is the key to social mobility. I value and support the need for a higher education and believe everyone should have an equitable right to choose to pursue an opportunity for a degree without fear of negative repercussions such as, lack of food or housing. Offering quality resources to college students demonstrates that they have a role in academia beyond statistics and their education should be and is valued. Sadly, many federal resources for students experiencing food insecurity are limited.

Families may not be able to provide extra financial support, and college students are not eligible for SNAP (food stamp) benefits unless they have a child under 12 years old or they are working 20 hours per week and credit "hours" do not count towards the 20 hours per week. The work requirement is challenging for many students, especially those required to complete unpaid internships and volunteer hours for their degrees. Or, if they are a family with a parent trying to go back to school the requirements for income are so skewed those students still are unable to get proper access to food. In order to alleviate food insecurity in the long run there needs to be systematic policy change however, a food pantry is a good first milestone and I am proud for Temple to be joining the fight in this long journey ahead.

Could you tell me about the Cherry Pantry event?

The Cherry Pantry event will mark the formal opening of the food pantry. It is from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. where we will be accepting donations offering tours and most importantly opening the pantry for those who need the resources.

Dr. Sara Goldrick-Rab will be speaking as well as myself and other students, who will be leading discussions. Most importantly, it's critical and extremely important that we offer free food at this event! It will be from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Rad Dish Co-Op at Ritter Annex. The Rad Dish and Office of Sustainability has been a huge support of the food pantry. The Rad Dish is offering to donate all of their tips from this semester to the food pantry so, by supporting another student-run organization on campus, you can also help support the Cherry Pantry and combat food insecurity on campus!

Will there be future events for students to attend and what’s next after this?

We are still in the works of establishing future events, but we plan to host workshops, and offer more volunteer opportunities beyond working in the Cherry Pantry itself. The best way to stay up to date is to follow our social media, where we will post more information about upcoming events and opportunities as we establish ourselves on Temple's community. You can also email [email protected] if you have any questions.

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