Newman Center Food Pantry providing for those in need

Kyara Morales-Rodriguez, Campus Reporter

The Newman Center Food Pantry has been running in the basement of the Newman Catholic Center for years, helping provide Eastern students with the food they need.

The food pantry is run mainly by Eastern students. Though the food pantry has students who volunteer there on a regular basis, they also accept anybody who comes in randomly to help.

Members of the Catholic Center also help, either by buying food from nearby grocery stores or running the food pantry if there are not enough volunteers.

The pantry is open from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Mondays and Tuesdays, and during that time students can stop by the catholic center to pick up whatever food items they need.

Eastern students can visit the pantry once a week and must have a valid Panther ID card to receive the pantry’s services, since they are only available to students.

Doris Nordin, a Charleston resident and campus minister, volunteers for the food pantry. She explained that the services are not just open to Eastern students, but also to students in the Charleston area. “It’s open to anybody who is a student,” Nordin said. “Eastern, Lakeland or Lakeview.”

Aside from a student ID, the food pantry also wants students to start bringing their own bags, as it would make the process easier.

“We would love it if everyone would come with their bag,” Nordin said. “We don’t want to buy plastic bags just to give away. Sometimes we give away recyclable bags that we use, and they bring them back.”

When students visit the pantry, they receive a form listing the many food items available at the Newman Center Food Pantry.

Students can then check off the items that they want and hand it to one of the volunteers. Another volunteer will then take the sheet and go into the food pantry themselves, picking out the items the students checked off on the list for them.

This process is one that is very new to the Newman Center Food Pantry volunteers. They decided to start providing their services in that manner to do their part in protecting the community from Covid.

“Before COVID, usually people would come inside and shop themselves,” Nordin said. “Because of COVID and to avoid people touching everything, we give them that form and they fill it out.”

Chris Sheeran, a senior Spanish student, regularly volunteers at the food pantry. He explained that the food pantry has many available food items, including many refrigerated items.

“The refrigerated section has milk, orange juice, eggs, butter, cheese, and yogurt,” Sheeran said. “Because we are part of a larger food pantry, sometimes they send us discounted goods like almond milk and stuff like that at a special price.”

The food pantry also has non-refrigerated items.

“On the non-refrigerated section, we have mostly canned stuff like beans, carrots, any kind of vegetable really,” Sheeran said. “We have pasta, canned fruits, ramen, and macaroni and cheese.”

Though the food pantry gets a lot of their food from the larger food pantry they are a part of, the Eastern Illinois Foodbank, they accept donated goods from people of the community.

Those food items include items they would not typically give away, such as onions, potatoes, fresh vegetables, and other food items.

In past years, the food pantry used to have lots of students stop by weekly to grab the food items they needed, but since then, things have changed.

“In the past, we’ve had a lot more [students],” Sheeran said. “We’ve had anywhere from 20 to 50 students per week. In Spring 2020, before COVID hit, we were getting close to almost 100 people per week. Now sadly, I’m not sure why, the numbers have really dropped off to only like five people.”

Because numbers have been so low, they have more food than people to provide it to. Most recently, the food pantry had some milk that went bad from how long it was sitting in the fridge.

“We really want people to come and utilize the service because sometimes we buy more than we need,” Sheeran said. “We have stuff that we waste, and I think that’s kind of sad. To have food go to waste when it’s literally free.”

The food pantry is hoping that by next semester, they can change the way they provide their services so they can best serve the students.

“We’re here to serve the students,” Nordin said. “We are here to serve whoever is in need of food. We don’t want anybody to suffer because they don’t have food.”

 

Kyara Morales-Rodriguez can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]