Rock Pantry+ serves success

Food pantry provides equal access for students in need

Published by Annabelle Chipps, Date: January 3, 2024
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Non-perishable items sit in Rock Pantry+. Students with dietary restrictions are encouraged to let their pantry know their needs

Rock Pantry+ is a student food pantry that is located in 013 Patterson Hall and is open Monday-Friday from 9am-3:30pm. It is free to all current students and is partially funded by SRSGA. 

Rock Pantry+ centers on the growing national problem of  students who do not have secure access to food and toiletries. 

It provides frozen and non-perishable food, toiletries, cleaning supplies, paper products and menstruation items. It can also offer cooking utensils, along with things like can openers and bowls. 

Any student may walk in and use the service. There are also intake forms available on CORE, and Student Support asks that students with specific needs or dietary restrictions communicate them so they can be accommodated. 

When shopping, students are asked to provide their name and address so that the pantry has data on how many students are using it and what resources are needed. 

“We do have limits on how much product can be taken in one trip to assure we have enough product for all shoppers,” Associate Director of Student Support, Sunshine Mushrush, said.  “First time shoppers are given a reusable bag…identical to the green bags offered in the bookstore…We found this was the best way to offer students anonymity.”

Rock Pantry+ operates with the help of professional staff like Mushrush, as well as a graduate assistant and student workers. They also accept volunteers and act as a vocational space for Rock Life students. 

The food pantry was created in 2018 and was originally located in the Macoskey Center. It was initially called Bob’s Cupboard after Robert A. Macoskey and led by the Bonner Program.

When Student Support began to oversee the pantry in 2022, it was moved to Patterson Hall. 

“After talking with staff, shoppers and shareholders, it was determined that Bob’s Cupboard was confusing and did not easi[l]y depict what we are,” Mushrush said. The new name was created with the help of PRSSA, who also went on to develop social media and marketing campaigns for the pantry. 

“Pantry showcases what we are, the plus sign was added as a way to share that we offer more than food,” Mushrush said. 

The pantry also offers meal swipes to students who may need them. Aramark and Rock Dining facilitate meal swipe drives that allow other students to donate up to 5 guest meal swipes.

“No one other than the student will know it is donated swipes,” Mushrush said. “This helps to curb worry that some students may have of others knowing.”

Student Support found that one of the biggest challenges with getting students set up with Rock Pantry+ is the stigma surrounding outside help. The office has been working to reduce that stigma through outreach and education. 

“One of the things I hear the most is students not even realizing they are food insecure,” Mushrush said.  “If you are experiencing a situation where you are routinely only eating one meal of day due to financial concerns or having to pay for rent instead of food, that is food insecurity.”

College students are in a unique place when it comes to getting help for food insecurity, since they do not always qualify for government aid.  

“We’ve seen students struggling to decide on whether to spend their funds on books or food,” Mushrush said. “SRU has a responsibility to ensure our students are healthy and have enough to eat to allow all students equitable opportunities for success.”

Rock Pantry+ relies on donations from the community both on and off campus.

“If anyone is interested in hosting a campus food drive, donating items or would like to make a monetary purchase, please reach out at rockpantry@sru.edu or 724-738-2404,” Mushrush said.

Students who may benefit from these services are encouraged to visit the space or connect with Student Support. 

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