The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

UI food pantry provides basic needs for students

The University of Iowa food pantry relocated to the Iowa Memorial Union in August and has seen a drastic increase in traffic.
Ava Neumaier
The Food Pantry in the Iowa Memorial Union is seen on Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2023.

Since its relocation to the basement of the Iowa Memorial Union, the University of Iowa food pantry has seen its number of clients nearly double since last year.

The UI food pantry was opened by a group of students in 2016 in a secluded back hallway of the IMU. The pantry has utilized a new location since August and has significantly more storage space and a new organized look that is inviting for clients.

More storage has been crucial for the pantry because of the drastically rising number of clients. Stephanie Beecher, the UI’s basic needs coordinator, said the pantry saw 1,046 clients throughout October, compared to only 629 in October of 2022.

The number of pounds of food distributed in October 2023 was 10,524, compared to 7,428 pounds in October 2022.

There has also been a shift among clientele who utilize the pantry. Graduate students have always made up around 60 percent of the people who use the pantry’s resources. Since the relocation, however, undergrad clients have increased by 20 percent since the 2022-2023 school year, according to the UI basic needs annual report.

Beecher attributes these upward trends to the increased visibility of the food pantry.

“It’s destigmatized. When you’re down in the basement of the IMU, there’s the Hawk Shop, there’s the Marketplace, and people are coming and going,” Beecher said. “It’s no big deal to be down there.”

Beyond the statistics, Beecher said the pantry is a basic needs hub at the university.

“I think the biggest thing that I’ve noticed, especially with the new space, is it creates this community of care framework,” she said. “It’s really inspiring to see how our community is saying ‘We need to do this, and we need to do it even better. Let’s keep improving.’”

UI students are taking on large leadership roles at the pantry as well. Fourth-year students Faith Surface and Yunseo Ki said they put in roughly 30 hours a week working behind the scenes at the pantry while also being full-time students.

Surface said the job can be difficult because she has to take on so many different roles. But in the end, she believes she’s working for a worthy cause and makes it very clear that the pantry is for any students who feel they need support in providing food for themselves and their families.

“If there’s ever a question that your quality of life would be better if you were able to have your basic needs fulfilled, you qualify for the pantry,” Surface said. “If you ever have an inkling that this would help make your life easier, then it’s for you.”

First-year graduate student Vishuka Heenatigala Pathiranage said she has used the pantry for about two months.

“It’s cool because it helps us to get things here, so we don’t have to go around to the other stores,” Heenatigala Pathiranage said. “We can find food items and other things near the university, and it really helps our time management as well as financial management.”

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About the Contributors
Grace Olson
Grace Olson, News Reporter
Grace Olson is a first-year student at the University of Iowa majoring in Journalism and Mass Communications. She's a news reporter for The DI, reporting primarily on local government. She is from Denver, Colorado and worked on the pirnt publication from her high school prior to her work in college.
Ava Neumaier
Ava Neumaier, Photojournalist
Ava Neumaier is a first-year student at the University of Iowa, majoring in English & Creative Writing. She was the Editor-in-Chief of her high school yearbook in New York, and has interned for a New York Times photographer. She enjoys taking pictures of performances and student life.