The Bear Pantry recently moved locations to make room for healthier food options and provide students with more confidentiality.
The Bear Pantry will be getting refrigerators so they are able to house a wider variety of healthy foods.
“We want to provide healthier food items,” said the Director for Community-Engaged Learning, Alex Johnson. “It’s easy to get nonperishable and shelf Items, but we want to provide and advocate for health.”
The Bear Pantry moved to better protect the people they help. They provide food security for students, staff and faculty.
“The old place was like a fishbowl room,” Johnson said. “It was a high traffic area and anyone could see the room.”
The Bear Pantry was formerly located in the Center for Community Engagement. They moved to University Hall room 012 and have doubled the amount of people they provide services for.
“It was definitely a fear to be lost as a resource if we moved,” Johnson said. “However we wanted the opportunity to have a larger space to provide more while still being accessible to those on campus.”
The Bear Pantry is closely partnered with the local food pantries around the local Springfield areas. They coordinate with other food pantries to provide food for students.
“In 2018, student leaders told us if we were more accessible, more people would come if we were on campus,” Johnson said. “There was a lot of initial support from the administration and other nonprofits. We also have a lot of support from the alumni base and the Missouri State University foundation.”
Johnson said they are open Monday through Friday from 9-5. The Bear Pantry allows people to come and receive food as often as they need it.
“We allow people to come anytime and any amount of times,” Johnson said. “There are no stipulations or questioned asked. They just need their Bear Pass.”
Bear Pantry is dependent on donations. Students that want to get involved with helping the program can join groups that hold donations or fundraisers for the Bear Pantry.
“We don’t have a lot of opportunities for volunteering in order to maintain confidentiality,” Johnson said. “We encourage students to advocate and educate the campus community on what hunger looks like on campus.”
Being donation-based allows them to ask for specific food items when they need to.
“In times of (bad) weather we can ask for specific food items if people need them,” Johnson said. “However, we will always have things like peanut butter, bread and cans.”
The Bear Pantry also offers hygiene products and resources people can contact to reduce their food insecurity.
“Our ultimate goal is for everyone on campus to have the resources they need to succeed,” Johnson said. “We want as many people as possible utilizing the resources that they need.”
The Bear Pantry is working with the Student Government Association to create an open house. It will be on Feb. 10 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. in the Plaster Student Union Ballroom East. They will give tours while providing snacks and drinks. The pantry will recap on the work they’ve done and discuss the progress they’ve made by moving to University Hall.