Physical food pantry opens at USC

Several University offices created a physical location for USC’s virtual food pantry in the Student Union building due to an increased demand from students. The virtual food pantry was originally created to support food-insecure students on campus.

Students who visit the food pantry can pick up two large items and three small items each week. Photo from Facebook.

The Office for Diversity and Strategic Initiatives, with the help of campus cultural centers and the Norman Topping Student Aid Fund, decided the change was appropriate in order to expand the pantry.

The addition allows students to pick up two bulk items and three snacks and individual items per week from the physical location. The pantry includes perishable items such as eggs, milk, vegetables, frozen food, fruits, canned goods, pasta and snack items. They also offer feminine hygiene products.

“We’ve collected a lot of data from the virtual food pantry and based on the data from [it] and data from the ‘Grab N’ Go’ pantries, we felt that a physical pantry with perishable items would better serve this growing population of students dealing with food insecurity,” said Mary Ho, assistant dean for Diversity and Strategic Initiatives in the Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.

The food pantry is temporarily located in room 422 of the Student Union building. The Diversity and Strategic Initiatives office said it plans to expand the pantry to a bigger location later in the year.

Those offices involved in bringing the pantry to campus say that they are using the food pantry successes at other universities to develop the most efficient and beneficial way to cater to students struggling with food insecurity.

“The Office for Diversity and Strategic Initiatives coordinates the Trojan Guardian Scholars program, a program for foster youth and current homeless college students,” Ho said. “Through the program, we saw students are  [also] struggling with food insecurity.”

The pantry was opened in 2016 since some students on USC’s campus were dealing with food insecurity, Ho said. As a result, Leo Braudy, a Dornsife professor, and his wife Dorothy decided to donate to fund the pantry. The pantry began as a virtual pantry, providing students with a $25 Trader Joe’s gift card up to three times a semester. Students were also able to pick up three items at Grab N’ Go stations, one which was located in the Topping office.

Ho said the office is looking forward to uncovering more information about food insecurity at USC and he believes that being able to provide these food resources to students is an amazing opportunity.

“The food pantry program has been a community effort with a lot of folks across the University coming together, who are passionate about supporting students dealing with food insecurity and financial instability,” Ho said.

Organizers of the pantry have marketed the service to students using flyers and Facebook. Students who would like to donate food to the new physical pantry can contact or drop off food at STU 422.