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 visitor rate continues to rise

Since changing locations in the IMU, UI’s food pantry has seen visiting rates skyrocket for students and faculty utilizing its resources.
Madison Frette
Anna Peach and Delaney Behning, lead volunteers at The University of Iowa Food Pantry, stock shelves on Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2024. The food pantry has received an 89 percent increase in visits over the past year. It is located on the bottom floor of the Iowa Memorial Union.

Since transferring to a new space in the Iowa Memorial Union in August, the University of Iowa food pantry has seen visiting rates skyrocket 89 percent after reopening.    

Data collected and provided by the UI food pantry shows that new visitor rates have risen to 24 percent over the past semester, which is an 11.5 percent increase from the fall 2022. In particular, undergraduate student visitors were on the rise, with 1,106 undergraduates having visited the pantry over the last semester.

Food distribution rates have correlated with the rising visitation rates this past semester. Around 45,110 pounds of food have been handed out between August and December, and rates are still projected to increase.

UI basic needs coordinator Stephanie Beecher said the rise was partially a result of the pantry’s new location. The food pantry was previously housed on the second floor of the IMU. After running out of space, it moved into the area where Hills Bank was.

Because of its new location, students have become more exposed to the pantry. Tour groups also expanded their route to include a stop at the pantry too, allowing incoming students and their guardians to observe the pantry’s various resources. 

“When we started, smaller operations were kind of a scaled thing, but what happened was with the pandemic, it really kind of peeled back a layer of food insecurity that had always been there,” Beecher said.

Beecher added that during the pandemic, more people felt comfortable enough to reach out for resources provided by the food pantry and clothing closet.

“Back in the pandemic, other food banks would have drive-up services and you could just see people in lines waiting,” Beecher said. “The autonomy of being in your car and not going into a place became normalized.”

With the recent growth, Beecher said the UI food pantry community is also developing. Conversations and interactions are happening between clientele and student volunteers, which creates a safe, personable space that people feel comfortable reaching out to.

Clientele ranges from undergraduate students to faculty members. The UI food pantry is continuously working on getting funds to continue providing resources and improve food security, specifically focusing on having the same food options available throughout every day of the week.

One of the food pantry’s most recent tasks involves its first crowdsourcing campaign, which began on Feb. 1. Have a Heart for UI Food Pantry is raising money to purchase resources to combat food insecurity. Having originally started with a goal of $500, the pantry has now raised over $3,000. The campaign will end at the end of the month, and garners donations from students, staff, and alumni.

RELATED: UI food pantry provides basic needs for students

Anna Peach, a UI third-year student majoring in global health studies, has been involved with the pantry for the past three years and said it’s been wonderful it is to see visitors, both old and new, come into the pantry.

“I really feel like just being open has been huge,” Peach said. “Like in the first couple weeks last fall in the new location, the number of people coming in saying ‘Oh, this is my first time’ was huge.”

While the UI food pantry hopes to continue providing support for those in need, it also hopes to engage in further events regarding crowdsourcing and education centering around food insecurity.

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About the Contributor
Madison Frette
Madison Frette, Photojournalist
Madison Frette is a second-year student at The University of Iowa double majoring in Business Analytics and Information Systems and Cinematic Arts. This is her first year working as a photojournalist for The Daily Iowan.