Shaw Wellness Center Grows Food Pantry Initiative

Colgate University’s Shaw Wellness Center now hosts the flagship location of a new campus food pantry initiative. Shaw’s pantry — along with satellite locations at the ALANA Cultural Center and the Center for International Programs (CIP and OISS) — is stocked with nonperishable food items and snacks, as well as personal items like toothbrushes, sunscreen and tampons.

“The Pantry at ALANA is part of a network of pantries strategically located across campus with the goal of providing supplemental emergency support for students who may be experiencing hardships,” Dean of Students Dorsey Spencer said.

Shaw’s location is the largest and most well-stocked. Along with food and personal items, they also provide recipe cards using ingredients in the pantry, information on food safety and tips for eating healthy on a budget, according to Shaw’s Dietician Specialist Allison Bowers.

“So the one down in Shaw we sort of consider our […] main hub food pantry. Ironically, it’s probably the one with the least amount of traffic just because of where we’re located,” said Bowers.

The locations purchase items based on student requests and item popularity, and provide microwave access. Fresh produce from Colgate’s community garden is stocked on Thursdays, and unclaimed produce is composted. The pantries also get extra stock around breaks, which is their busiest time. Recognizing the diversity in student food preferences, Shaw communicates with ALANA and OISS to ensure that there are culturally-appropriate food options.

“We provide bags, we provide lots of food. We also have personal items, feminine hygiene products, toothbrushes […] we usually have sunscreen. We also have some information on food safety, and we have some recipes that use some of the food here,” said Bowers.

Colgate has slim food options, with limited dining hall hours and restaurants in town that close early or, on some days, don’t open at all. There is one traditional grocery store, and all non-meal plan food costs money. In response, the pantries were created in the Spring of 2022 through a grant from Swipe Out Hunger in partnership with the Chobani Café. In the months since they opened, their user base has expanded and Bowers stressed that the pantries are there to serve all students regardless of financial status.

“We tell students all the time that it’s there for anyone,” Bowers said. “It’s not income-based, nobody has to qualify for it […] it’s not there for a specific type of student.”

Bowers wants to break the stigma around food pantry use and is working on changing perceptions about why a food pantry exists and who should use it. Students use the pantry for a variety of reasons, whether they just need a snack or want something to make an easy meal in their dorm. The pantry is targeted toward students who are living off-campus and no longer have access to the mandatory, unlimited meal plan.

“A lot of times this will supplement somebody’s intake during the day between classes,” Bowers said. “A student in need could just be [someone who] packed a lunch and left it in their townhouse and they have lab up [on campus] all day and they don’t have time to go back to their townhouse and grab it, and they don’t have a meal plan.”

This is not the first time a pantry has been established on campus. ALANA, a Colgate institution with a history of supporting a variety of student needs, is no stranger to meeting student hunger needs. There was a food support initiative at ALANA previously, and this new network greatly expands access and stock of essentials for students.

ALANA Director Esther Rosbrook commented on ALANA’s longstanding responsibility to address food insecurity at Colgate.

“Recognizing that hunger should not be an obstacle for students to thrive academically, we have worked on developing the means to support all students by maintaining a functioning non-perishable food pantry to serve students at risk of food insecurity,” Rosbrook said.

Shaw’s location is open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., ALANA’s is Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Sunday 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., and CIP’s is Monday-Friday 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. While ALANA and CIP have their pantries in more public areas, Shaw has a confidential entrance and exit on the backside of the building next to their pantry to make students feel more comfortable accessing it. No location ever requires students to scan their Gate Card or sign in, they just ask that students mark what they took and the date for analytical purposes.