Twenty-two percent. According to Amy Koeckes, University of Nevada, Reno associate director for student engagement and outreach, 22 percent of University of Nevada, Reno students reported being food insecure in 2018. The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines food insecurity as lacking consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life. The survey done by the Center for Student Engagement and the Office of Student Persistence Research includes short-form questions provided by USDA. Unfortunately, for the University, the number of students without crucial resources is up one percentage point from the last survey in 2016.
"In 2015-2016 we had 78 visits, in 2016-2017 we had 188 visits and in 2017 we had 593 visits to Pack Provisions," Koeckes said. "I think part of the increase is the result of more students hearing about and utilizing this service, which is great. That said, as our users have increased, so has our need."
The food pantry started on campus in 1993 and moved to the Joe Crowley Student Union in 2007. In 2011, The ASUN Center for Student Engagement started running the food pantry and in 2015 a crucial partnership with the Food Bank of Northern Nevada was formed. That year was also the first year a student was hired to run the program and the name changed to Pack Provisions. It is located on the third floor of the Joe Crowley Student Union, inside the ASUN Center for Student Engagement.
Koeckes said that students play a major role in sustaining the Pack Provisions food pantry. A student is hired to run the program each year by the Center for Student Engagement and student volunteers also staff the pantry to ensure the comfort of their peers using the program in a by-students, for-students approach.
"It is very important to the pantry staff that the space is welcoming, friendly and does not create a sense of stigma or shame," Karissa Mendaros, Pack Provisions student director, said. "We currently have 13 student volunteers staffing the window at Pack Provisions. These students are knowledgeable about resources on and off campus and provide a peer-to-peer helping model for our visitors."
In addition to Pack Provisions' partnership with the Food Bank, which provides non-perishable items, additional partnerships include one with Desert Farming Initiatives to provide fresh produce twice a month. ASUN also supports the program with an $8,000 annual budget although currently this is not enough to continue to meet the growing demand.
The program has also seen increased community support. Greater Nevada Credit Union recently donated $5,000 to help celebrate its branch opening in the Towers at Pink Hill across from the University on Virginia Street.
"Every time Greater Nevada Credit Union opens a new branch we select a non-profit organization to receive a $2,500 donation," Erika Mendoza, branch manager of the new location near the University, said. "We believe that this donation would be best utilized by Pack Provisions to assist the University students and staff in need."
At the ribbon cutting ceremony Wally Murray, the president and CEO of Greater Nevada Credit Union, decided to up the donation to Pack Provisions, doubling it from $2,500 to $5,000.
Past donations from Greater Nevada Credit Union included 1,500 toothbrushes and toothpaste tubes to Pack Provisions.
How to help
As Pack Provisions plans to supply students with essential items this year, donation drives by clubs and members of the University community help sustain the program. Items of need include canned protein, dry pasta, rice, canned soups, cereals, peanut butter, mashed potatoes, oatmeal, fruit cups, canned fruit, granola bars and nuts. In addition to food items, self-care essentials are also always needed. These include shampoo, conditioner, body soap, floss, deodorant, feminine hygiene products, toilet paper and laundry detergent.
Those looking to get involved can also offer monetary donations to the program and University faculty and staff can make donations right from their paycheck. Within the University Foundation's online Marketplace, users can select "University-Wide Initiatives" then "ASUN Club Account" and add an amount. In the section that reads, "What ASUN club are you donating to?" write "Pack Provisions."
In addition to monetary and item donations, Pack Provisions is working on starting a coupon drive. They will be collecting coupons for local grocery stores and restaurants so students can utilize them as well. Coupons can be addressed to Pack Provisions and sent to Mailstop 0058.
"While the food pantry is a cornerstone of Pack Provisions, we also offer additional services to meet the expanding needs of our students," Koeckes said.
Pack Provisions offers students grocery store gift cards so students can get items not often available in the pantry. The program also offers swipes at the University's Down Under Café, which are donated by residence hall students. School supplies are another item students often need, which it tries to provide.
Once a month, Pack Provisions hosts Mobile Mondays, an initiative created to provide a monthly farmer's market-style event to campus. The events, which take place from 12:30-3:30 p.m. allows students to receive fresh produce for free. Dates for the events are:
• Monday, Oct. 15, 2018 at Hilliard Plaza
• Monday, Nov. 19, 2018 at Hilliard Plaza
• Monday, Dec. 10, 2018 at the Randall Rotunda in the Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center
• Monday, Feb. 11, 2019 at the Randall Rotunda in the Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center
• Monday, April 15, 2019 at Hilliard Plaza
• Monday, May 6, 2019 at Hilliard Plaza