Central Pantry expands to meet growing need

This week the US Census Bureau published results of a survey in which nearly 30 million out of 249 million respondents said they did not have enough to eat at some point in the week before July 21. It was the highest number of people reporting insufficient food since the Census started tracking that information in early May.

While Americans across the country have trouble accessing food, students at the University of Central Oklahoma are not exempted. However, as students return to campus they will have access to a larger supply of food.

The food pantry at UCO has expanded to accommodate a growing inventory. On July 20, the pantry was moved to Room 151 of the Nigh University Center.

UCO alumnus Brian Blevins, Coordinator of Community Engagement, has worked at the university for four years. Blevins said his favorite experience has been watching the pantry grow since its opening in 2012, and seeing the the fading stigma of those who need help with food.

“Hey, bills cost a lot. And school costs a lot. And textbooks cost a lot, and then throw food on there … that’s just another issue,” Blevins said. “Needing access to food is not a bad thing.”

Central Pantry moved to the first floor near its office to keep the service efficient. They made a deal with UCO’s Student Association to use its conference room for the pantry.

“Our offices were gonna be on the first floor, pantry’s gonna be on the second floor, and then our overstock inventory was gonna be on the fourth floor,” Blevins said. “So we were gonna be on three-fourths of the building.”

The change streamlines the service and spreads it across less real estate.

Several other changes have been implemented because of COVID-19. The pantry is only allowing one person in at a time, and masks and hand sanitizer use are encouraged.

Pantry patrons can also phone ahead to order prepackaged bags. Delivery of bags takes place at the front of the building. 

The pantry’s summer hours are Mondays from 9 a.m. to noon, Tuesdays from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., and Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Central Pantry is a partner of Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma. The food bank’s parent company, Feeding America, noted the best donations to a food bank include peanut butter, rice, pasta and canned products like canned soup, fruit, vegetables, stew, fish and beans.

It also said some food banks will take personal care and household items such as diapers, laundry detergent and feminine hygiene products.

Central Pantry is always in need of donations of canned fruits such as peaches or oranges, or protein like peanut butter, beans or canned chicken, according to Blevins. Two donations it does not need right now are corn and green beans.

“We probably have a thousand pounds of it,” he said. “Like, a thousand pounds of green beans and a thousand pounds of corn. I’m not lying.”

Contact the pantry by calling (405) 974-2622 or emailing centralpantry@uco.edu.

Several other offices and information services in the Nigh University Center have also moved locations.

Freshman Recruiters has moved to Room 214.  The Welcome Center and Campus Tours have moved to Room 212. 

Community Engagement, Leadership Central and Student Engagement and Sustainability have moved to Room 141. Student Advocacy has moved to Room 134. Student Conduct/Title IX has moved to Room 323.

The Office of Diversity and Inclusion and the Women’s Outreach Center have both moved to Room 136. The Chickasaw Nation has moved to Room 128. 

Scholarships has moved to Room 114. Financial Aid Processing has moved to Room 414.

For more information on university services or office locations visit https://www3.uco.edu/centraldirectory/DOSearch.aspx.

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