Central Pantry offers assistance to campus community

UCO’s Central Pantry, located in Room 151 in the Nigh University Center, is a supplemental food pantry available to UCO students, faculty and staff. The pantry is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

According to the UCO website, the pantry is intended to be used by those who meet the gross income limit, found by calculating 185% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines set forth by the Oklahoma Emergency Assistance Program. All that is required of shoppers is proof of current UCO enrollment or employment and a completed client form.

Nicole Doherty, director of community engagement, said the Central Pantry is a partner agency of the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma (RFBO) that is there to help those within the UCO community.

“I think that hunger for college students is sometimes an unknown factor,” Doherty said. “That’s why the Central Pantry was created in the first place. We found that a lot of our students were going to local food shelters to get their weekly groceries.”

Roughly 300 to 400 client forms are filled out per year. Although the pantry is used by UCO faculty and staff, the majority of users are students, Doherty said.

“Just because someone filled out a client form does not mean that they use the pantry every week, but it does mean that they have used it at least once,” Doherty said. “In 2021, we served over 3,000 individuals, including UCO students, faculty and staff and their household members.”

The pantry depends primarily on the Edmond community and the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma for nonperishable food donations. Several item-focused food drives are held throughout the year for items the pantry might have in short supply.

RFBO offers goods and services that are not found in supplemental pantries.

“Our partners offer a wide variety of nutritious produce, dairy and protein products,” Marketing Manager at the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma Austin Prickett said.

RFBO also offers services beyond food assistance.

“At our food and Resource Center partners, we offer help connecting our visitors with resources that help pay utility bills, health bills and more,” Prickett said.

For those who may be experiencing homelessness in addition to hunger, the Homeless Alliance in Oklahoma City offers help. Editor of the Curbside Chronicle, Nathan Poppe, said that homelessness is usually never caused by one thing.

“More often than not, it’s a messy web of poverty, misfortune, trauma and challenging circumstances that puts people face to face with what might be the worst day of their life,” Poppe said.

The Homeless Alliance’s mission is to put an end to long-term homelessness. Its campus is equipped with a day shelter that serves breakfast and lunch everyday. This service is available to the public.

The Community Engagement office continually seeks volunteers for the Central Pantry. All UCO students receive an email at the beginning of each semester containing volunteer information. Those interested in volunteering with the pantry should note its semester-long commitment, and that applications will be open this spring.For more information or to volunteer at the Central Pantry, visit uco.edu/student-resources/ce/central-pantry. For more information regarding the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma, visit regionalfoodbank.org, and for information on The Homeless Alliance, visit homelessalliance.org.

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