Smiling Volunteers and Coordinators
Due to rising rents and tuition costs there is an increasing need for easier access to affordable food and other daily necessities for students at the University of Nevada, Reno. Pack Provisions, on the third floor of the Joe Crowley Student Union, has been around since 1993, but coordinators say the need for it now is more apparent than ever.
The window leading into the pantry is bordered with green and red tinsel. A smiling volunteer sits in the middle waiting to help students get what they need.
Student coordinator, Karissa Mendaros, gives a tour of what Pack Provisions has to offer, which is more than just food.
In the closet there are shirts on mismatched hangers and stacked tupperware. Pack Provisions’ pantry is lined with canned and boxed food and a big bag of onions. They also have a microwave on site and tall coolers holding frozen foods.
Mendaros, a nutritional science and chemistry senior, is enthusiastic about the attention Pack Provision has been receiving. Her goal is to break the stigma surrounding asking for help.
“We have people who would come in and be like, “Oh I don’t think I should get this, I feel like more people deserve it,” but you need it so you should get it. Right now I don’t have a limit on things that people can get,” she said.
More and More Visitors
Over 400 students have used Pack Provisions so far this semester. This is a big leap compared to the 78 visitors Mendaros saw her freshman year.
According to Pack Provisions, for their most recent study, in 2016, 21% of UNR students were food insecure.
“I am definitely one of those college students that is facing a little bit of food insecurity,” Vera Miller said.
Miller, a 23-year-old photography and videography major, believes Pack Provisions is essential to campus life. She has a campus library job but she says it’s not enough to cover all of her needs.
“I am currently living paycheck-to-paycheck,” Miller said.
Miller describes her own experience using Pack Provisions as positive and welcoming.
“Let me just walk you through the process so we’ve got like all kinds of boxed and canned food items which are really yummy and really good, we’ve even got Annie’s Mac and Cheese which is really cool, but they also sometimes have fresh produce, they sometimes have orders of Burger King which is super nice, fast food is pretty cool sometimes,” Miller said.
Other students at UNR feel less inclined to ask for help. James Long, a senior Psychology major, says he wouldn’t use Pack Provisions. He is currently unable to afford stable housing, but feels apprehensive to go to the free pantry.
“It’s just a social anxiety thing I think. There’s a long interaction process of walking up to a window, filling out a form,” Long says.
Long says it can be challenging asking for help.
“I think most people to one degree or another don’t like admitting when they need help. You know, it’s sort of a path of last resort and that’s not just about food that’s about anything. But food would definitely be a big one because that implies that you’re on particularly hard times,” Long says.
Alleviating Those Anxieties
But Mendaros says even if students do have this type of anxiety to sign up they need to realize how much they can benefit by going.
“Let them know that we are college students,” Mendaros says, “We understand that it’s getting harder. I mean, at the beginning of the semester tuition is due already, books are much more expensive, those access codes are like a hundred bucks each. We are in college to provide and be successful and hopefully get out there and change the world but how can we do that if we ourselves are struggling?”
Pack Provisions has also implemented Mobile Mondays, a farmer’s market that occurs about once a month, where students can get fresh produce for free on campus.