As much of the world has changed dramatically in response to the coronavirus pandemic, Wayne State University’s W Food Pantry has adapted on the fly to continue to safely serve students in need, not only offering a free access to nutritious food and basic necessities, but also free technology. Resources.
Addressing food insecurity, The W is a provider of essential services and has remained open throughout the pandemic, with revised schedules, increased sanitation, and additional protocols for the health and safety of clients and students. . The pantry has also become an important source of resources during the pandemic, providing a centralized and secure location for WSU to distribute face covers and – with the help of computers and information technology – lend various free tools to help students learn remotely, including Chromebooks, hotspots, microphones, headphones, webcams, and graphing and financial calculators. With the support of the Student Senate, The W will also soon have noise-canceling headphones with microphones available on loan.
Before the pandemic, an estimated 36% of students nationwide were affected by food insecurity, which is defined as a lack of safe and consistent access to nutritious and affordable food. As research continues, Wayne State estimates that up to 10,000 students are food insecure. The pandemic, which has resulted in increased reliance on technology to support distance learning, has presented a new and changing set of challenges.
“We know that in order to be successful, our students must first meet their basic needs. Their needs have changed in the face of this pandemic, and so have we, ”said Rainesha Williams-Fox, Student Wellness Coordinator. “Although distance learning has resulted in fewer students physically on campus, we still provide nutritious food and essential hygiene items, and now we are also distributing school supplies and technology. “
The W adjusted its schedules and volunteer staff to allow for increased social distancing and sanitation measures; the pantry is currently open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Friday being reserved for technology pickups only. Customers were asked to complete a Admission form in advance to allow volunteers to prepare their order for contactless pickup. Additionally, recognizing that many students with a meal plan do not use up all of their guest meals, the Pantry has also partnered with Housing and Dining to deliver the Warrior meal sharing program, in which currently enrolled students can “donate” up to three of their guest meals per semester. In the spirit of giving, The W also continued its tradition of providing Thanksgiving baskets – complete with turkey, macaroni and cheese, greens, potatoes, and stuffing – to students in need before the holidays.
Williams-Fox says the pantry relied on collaborative and shared learning within the College and university pantry (CUP) research organization to adapt during the pandemic. The W recently partnered with CUP to virtually host their annual University Campus Pantry Summit, where attendees shared information and ideas on changing customer needs, increasing security protocols and future directions.
The W – a collaborative effort led by the Office of the Provost and the Office of the Dean of Students with support from Housing and Residential Life – was made possible by the McGregor Fund through a 2016 university-wide grant designed to meet the needs of the homeless and others. vulnerable students. Since its inception in 2017, the W has developed partnerships with the Gleaners Community Food Bank of Southeastern Michigan, Forgotten Harvest and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, which provides access to available social workers to virtually consult with students and provide information and assistance on state and federal benefits, including supplementary food aid program, emergency relief, childcare assistance, etc.
“It’s a tough time for all of us, and although we operate very different pantries, this group is always finding new ways to learn from each other for the benefit of our students,” said Williams-Fox. “The pandemic has strengthened our commitment to serving students and has reminded us that so many of our neighbors and peers face temporary or long-term food insecurity. “
To learn more about The W, visit thew.wayne.edu.