Starting this academic year, the student pantry, a source aiming to aid students with different supplies, is becoming institutionalized and taken over by the Office of Student Life from Associate Dean of Academic Success Kate Zoromski. The pantry, which has been closed since this summer, will be relocated to Memorial Hall; Student Life is currently planning to open the pantry next week and will notify the student body once it is open.
The student pantry will be relocated to a converted custodial supply room in the west side of Memorial Hall, according to Chris Card, Vice President for Student Life. With the access of key cards, students will be able to always stop by without permission, Card said. The new student pantry will still be open to donations since donors have been meeting most of the needs of students on campus.
Currently, there is no committed budget allocation to the pantry from the administration, according to Card. Having a budget allocated to the pantry is a conversation that the Lawrence administration is open to having, said Card; in the meantime, the Student Life office would like to maintain the relationship with the donors who are contributing supplies to the pantry.
The new student pantry is still in the preparation process, Card said, which involves shelving, painting, moving fridges, cleaning and other tasks. Supplies including clothes, textbooks, school supplies, food and hygiene products will be restocked later in this week; however, the pantry will remain unavailable until all the preparations are finished, according to Card.
While the preparations are ongoing, Student Life also plans to make several logistical changes, such as improving the management of supplies inventory to ensure that items in high demand by students are regularly stocked and available, Card said. Student Life is also looking at instituting effective processes to get feedback from students who use the resource from the pantry, knowing that students’ needs will change over time, according to Card.
Last academic year, the Committee on Diversity Affairs (CODA) published a list of concerns to Lawrence administration, which included a call to institutionalize the student pantry, according to Jason Bernheimer, former Vice Chair of CODA. The pantry was previously located in the basement of the Esch Hurvis Center for Spiritual and Religious Life, which could be physically inaccessible due to the steep stairs, Bernheimer said.
Beside the physical inaccessibility of the former pantry location, CODA also recognized that the pantry, as a critical source for students on campus, should be protected by Lawrence administration, regardless of the potential absence of individuals like Zoromski, Bernheimer said.
In the summer of 2017, Zoromski started the student pantry with Associate Dean of Student Life Paris Wicker, providing students with essential supplies. Now seeing the pantry closed, Zoromski is concerned that students will not have access to supplies they need.
“Being a low-income student on a campus like ours is hard in a lot of ways,” Zoromoski said. “Resources that support low-income students, like the student pantry, are critical to their success.”
Bernheimer echoed this frustration. Last academic year, CODA worked with President Emeritus Mark Burstein and kept the student pantry open for the first two weeks of each term under the COVID-19 restrictions, according to Bernheimer. However, since Student Life has taken over, CODA is no longer directly involved in this matter.
“We [CODA] worked hard to make sure students didn’t lose access to the resources even for just two weeks,” Bernheimer said. “And now the pantry has been shut down for more than two weeks after Student Life took it over … It’s disappointing to see Student Life … take it over before they are ready.”