May 12, 2021
NORTH ADAMS, MASS.—The MCLA Food Pantry has received a $3,000 grant from the James and Robert Hardman Fund of the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation.
The Hardman Fund grant will support the diversification of the food pantry’s offerings, including the addition of more fresh and perishable food items, one of the pantry’s longtime goals. The pantry will also purchase carts so guests can pick up pre-packaged meals and supplies outside the pantry. Funds will also be used to hire student employees to take inventory and maintain the pantry’s physical space, as well as work on its resource page which launched this spring on MCLA’s curriculum software Canvas. Student employees will also restart MCLA’s Swipe Out Hunger program, paused due to the pandemic, which allows students to donate excess parts of their meal plan to redistribute to students in need.
The MCLA Food Pantry opened in 2017 and provides canned goods, prepackaged meals, and supplies such as toilet paper and cleaning products to MCLA students from its location in the Amsler Campus Center. Half of MCLA’s students are eligible to apply for a Pell Grant, which are available for college students who demonstrate extreme financial need. In 2020, the Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice conducted a national survey that found that 41% of four-year college students are food insecure. Of MCLA’s students, 37% have self-reported experiencing food insecurity. The pandemic has greatly increased this need and the pantry has experienced more demand for their services.
The pandemic has provided new challenges for the pantry. When MCLA pivoted to remote learning, the pantry lost many of its student employees and volunteers, and had to restructure their distribution system to accommodate remote ordering and pickup. MCLA’s Director of Civic and Community Engagement Spencer Moser said the biggest concern has been “decreased and irregular contact with our students. We are frequently alerted to students struggling with basic needs by professors or staff and will work with students to provide aid beyond immediate relief.” These services include counseling in how to apply for SNAP benefits and rental assistance, as well as how to access transportation. These are resources the pantry hopes to make more accessible with the Hardman Fund’s grant by hiring a part-time student to refine the pantry’s online resources.
From September 2020 through March of 2021, the pantry served 40 individuals, many of whom utilize its services regularly, and gave out 607 items. To aid students over the extended winter break, the pantry partnered with the MCLA Advancement Office to collect donations from MCLA students, staff, and alum to institute a Walmart gift card program which served 46 MCLA students, several of whom applied multiple times to the program.
For those interested in donating to the MCLA Food Pantry, the staff accepts shelf-stable items such as pasta and peanut butter, as well as non-food items like deodorant and toothbrushes. To donate to or access the pantry’s resources, connect with the MCLA Food Pantry on Facebook or email Spencer.Moser@mcla.edu.