Combating Food Insecurity on Campus

Johana Vazquez   Staff Writer

Eastern works to subsidize food insecurity on campus with the reopening of Shawn’s cupboard, the on-campus free food pantry, and the implementation of the SWIPE it Forward program that allows students in need to receive five free meals in the dining hall per semester. Shawn’s cupboard’s main location is in the Knight House, the multi-faith center, next to Winthrop Hall. It was started two years ago to eliminate food insecurity among students on campus. Food insecurity is the state of being without reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food. For a college student, this could mean skipping a meal or eating an unfulfilling meal out of lack of having an insufficient meal plan or not having the time/financial stability to buy groceries.

Shawn’s Cupboard came to be in the Fall of 2017 when Shawn Dousis, a senior and Elementary Education/Liberal Studies major at Eastern, found out about a food pantry on campus that no one knew about. Only a handful of students knew about it and Dousis saw it as a good opportunity to not only bring awareness about the pantry but also about food insecurity on campus.  “The purpose behind this project that myself and a handful of other students and staff members took on, was to raise awareness of the food insecurity issue on Eastern’s campus, along with trying to diminish the negative stigma that comes with a food bank,” remarked Dousis, “by making the pantry a welcoming place where students don’t feel ashamed to visit. That’s why we named it Shawn’s Cupboard: it makes it personable (because I am a student here) and more welcoming.” The food pantry has since then expanded, involving over twenty Eastern student volunteers and earning the promotion of the University.

It has a variety of essentials to choose from: pasta, mashed potatoes, cereal, cereal bars, snacks, crackers, canned food items, peanut butter, frozen foods, yogurt, and more. Any student can come in and grab whatever they need.

“I think students should come here because as a college student, it’s really expensive to shop for groceries- sometimes there’s not enough time or money when you have to balance sports or jobs with school,” said Sara Lafrance, a senior and Theatre major who volunteers at Shawn’s cupboard every Friday afternoon. “Not everyone has a job, it’s not easy, especially if you don’t have transportation. It’s nice to have a resource like this so you don’t end up skipping meals.” Shawn’s cupboard is looking for more volunteers like Lafrance who can commit to a regular weekly shift. Contact Shawn Dousis at dousiss@my.easternct.edu if you are interested in taking part in this project.

The SWIPE it Forward program is the latest strategy to decrease food insecurity. The program allows students in need to receive up to five free meals at Hurley per semester. Over the past years, Shawn Dousis and her team (members of People Helping People, Nancy Brennan, Kim Silcox, Father Larry, and Patrick Vitale) have done a lot of research regarding food insecurity on college campuses. Part of the research included Dousis attending multiple conferences and workshops. It was at these conferences that she heard about Swipe it Forward programs being implemented at dozens of colleges and universities around the country. Dousis knew Eastern could benefit from this way to end student hunger. Dousis proposed the idea with others to Chartwells of allowing students to donate their unused Hurley swipes at the end of the semester. Chartwells was all for it and offered to match any student swipes that were donated to double the number of meals available. “This program exists thanks to the generous donations and support of students, faculty, staff, and, of course, Chartwells,” said Michelle Delaney, Interim Dean of Students. Enrollment into the program is simple. All a student has to do is email Delaney with a request at delaneymi@easternct.edu in the Dean of Students office.

These two programs provide Eastern students with the resources to make sure they are taking care of themselves. The access to free food is there, and now it is all a matter of the students reaching out and utilizing these resources. The cupboard is conveniently next door to Laurel and Nutmeg, two dorm halls with kitchens. Even if you are not a resident living in an upperclassmen hall with a kitchen that you have to keep stocked, you can still stop by Shawn’s cupboard to get snacks or other non-perishables that will help you get through your busy daily life on campus. Everyone is welcome at Shawn’s cupboard, no questions asked.

Shawn’s Cupboard Hours:

Main Location: Knight House
Monday: 9:00-6:00, Tuesday: 9:00-4:30, Wednesday: 9:00-5:00, Thursday: 9:30-4:00, Friday: 10:00-4:00

Satellite Locations:

Newman Hall (290 Prospect St.)
Thursday: 4:00-6:00,
Center for Community Engagement
Monday-Friday: 8:30-4:30
Webb 325
Tuesday: 2:45-3:45 Thursday: 1:45-3:45

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