Raptor Pantry Gives Students a Helping Hand

The food pantry is stocked with staples such as mac and cheese and canned meats and tuna.

The food pantry is stocked with staples such as mac and cheese and canned meats and tuna

By Jeanne Leong

Proper nutrition is vital to fuel the brain, but some college students just aren’t able to get the sustenance they need. Thanks to a new food pantry, Rutgers University–Camden students now are getting critical assistance.

Since the Raptor Pantry opened in early October, more than 54 students have stopped in at its location in the Student Health Services office to choose from a wide variety of foods, including pasta, tomato sauce, canned tuna, peanut butter, and jelly.

Raptor Food Pantry located in Student Health Services

Raptor Food Pantry located in Student Health Services

Recently, the pantry began offering perishable items such as milk, eggs, and fruit thanks to a refrigerator donated by Tom DiValerio, the dean of students. The refrigerator had been housed in a storeroom on campus.

“Many of the students are so grateful that the pantry is here,” says Madrid Moore, the operations coordinator at the Student Health Center. “They say, ‘Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!’”

Food insecurity is a sensitive topic to discuss, so it’s difficult to know just how many college students go without food every day. Maria Serra, director of Rutgers–Camden’s Student Health Services, says many students are too embarrassed to talk about it.

According to the hunger relief organization Feeding America, nearly one million

Maria Serra, Director of Student Health Services checking the Raptor Pantry refrigerator

Maria Serra, director of Student Health Services, checking the Raptor Pantry refrigerator

people in New Jersey are struggling with hunger, including many college students.

A study by the Wisconsin HOPE Lab, a research facility at the University of Wisconsin that aims to increase college attainment, found that 71 percent of Pell Grant recipients in their study said they had changed their eating habits and ate less frequently because of a lack of funds. Twenty-seven percent said they were eating less than they should or reducing meal sizes. Seven percent of two-year college students said they were going an entire day without food.

In its first month, the Raptor Pantry distributed more than 570 pounds of food to students.

“A number of students have used the pantry as a stopgap measure until they receive their next check from their employer,” says Serra.

She says the students who have come to the pantry are very considerate of others in a similar situation. Sometimes students won’t take something if it is the last item on the shelf.

“They’ve said, “No, I won’t take it because someone may need it more than I do.’”

The pantry is open Tuesdays 1 to 4 p.m., Wednesdays 1 to 4 p.m., and Fridays 9 a.m. to noon, but if students can’t make it to the pantry during regular hours, they can make arrangements to come at another time that is convenient for them.

Madrid Moore, operations coordinator at Student Health Services

The pantry is stocked with donations from students, faculty, staff, Rutgers Dining Services, Philabundance, the Food Bank of South Jersey, and area businesses, including Wegmans and Shop Rite.

Donations of nonperishable canned and boxed food items may be made at the Student Health Services office on the second floor of the Campus Center.

For more information about the Raptor Pantry, call (856) 225-6005 or email scarlet-raptor-food-pantry@camden.rutgers.edu

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