The Charger Blog

University’s Campus Pantry Expands Critical Support for Students

Through collaborations with departments at the University and external organizations, the University’s Campus Pantry is continuing to grow, supporting the health and well-being of students while cultivating a sense of community.

February 16, 2024

By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications

The Campus Pantry is offering more produce to students.
The Campus Pantry is offering more produce to students.

For Adedayo Adekola ’24 MPH, it is critical that his fellow Chargers have the food and support they need for their health and well-being. He’s passionate about his work with the University’s Campus Pantry, ensuring that it continues to be a valuable resource for students.

The Campus Pantry provides food for Chargers free of charge.
The Campus Pantry provides food for Chargers free of charge.

A graduate student assistant with the Campus Pantry, Adekola manages the pantry and the Career Closet. He maintains and organizes the pantry, tracking usage data and overseeing the maintenance of the food inventory system. He also reviews, processes, and confirms pantry requests to ensure efficient and equitable distribution of resources. It’s a role that is meaningful for Adekola, and he sees the impact it has on the Charger community.

“It is a great initiative that is open and available to every student at the University,” he said. “It is an indispensable resource for students that contributes to their well-being. This resource addresses food insecurity and promotes public health on campus. By alleviating food insecurity, the pantry creates a conducive environment for academic success and personal development.”

‘A vital resource’

Located in Ruden Street Building 19, the pantry continues to expand and offer more support to students. It began a collaboration with the Connecticut Foodshare late last year, which enables the pantry to serve more students and to consistently have more food available. The collaboration also means the pantry can offer food items that may be more costly, such as produce and protein, to students free of charge.

Adedayo Adekola ’24 MPH.
Adedayo Adekola ’24 MPH.

Diane Polo ’21 MPH, associate director for health and wellness education and prevention, oversees the pantry. She says the goal is to serve as many students as possible. The pantry has already been making an impact, providing food to more than 750 students during the Fall 2023 semester. She hopes that all students who need food or support will take advantage of everything the pantry has to offer.

“Being part of the Campus Pantry and seeing its growth is really rewarding,” she said. “The pantry is a vital resource, and food insecurity is something that we are always looking to address. Knowing that I have some involvement in trying to address that need and supporting our students is essential. My hope for the pantry is to continue to grow, establish more partnerships, and destigmatize the utilization of our pantry so that students start to see it as all of our other campus resources.”

‘A great asset and resource’

The pantry collaborates with a variety of departments and offices on campus as well as external organizations to expand its offerings and create opportunities for students. Supporters include the University’s Dining Services and Stop & Shop. The pantry works closely with the University’s nutrition program, and students complete clinical hours to gain hands-on experience, and they assist with the pantry’s day-to-day operations.

The University’s Campus Pantry.
The University’s Campus Pantry.

The pantry also has two student staff members. Adekola collaborates with Eavann Shanahan ’27, who began working with the pantry last fall. She organizes donations, packages pantry orders, and ensures that students with appointments receive everything they need.

“My work at the pantry is meaningful to me because I can engage with other students, help them with any questions they may have, and support their needs,” said Shanahan, a psychology major. “Students who come to the campus pantry are from all over the world, and I enjoy speaking to them about their studies and where they are from. The Campus Pantry and Career Closet is a great asset and resource for students to make sure they feel supported, confident, and acknowledged.”

‘A fundamental component of overall wellness’

The pantry is a particularly vital resource for students who live off campus and/or who prefer to prepare their own meals. The pantry endeavors to remove barriers to accessing food. It also cultivates a sense of community through events such as food drives that foster support for the pantry while also promoting an atmosphere of caring and unity.

For Adekola, his role with the pantry has also been a great opportunity to gain hands-on experience in his field while also making a meaningful difference. He’s grateful for the chance to apply his education and skills serving his fellow Chargers.

“Beyond my role in managing the campus pantry, my academic background in public health has provided me with a profound understanding of the critical need for such resources in fostering the health and well-being of students,” he said. “The Campus Pantry reflects the University’s commitment to public health principles and addressing food insecurity as a fundamental component of overall wellness.”