By Mallory Harris | Reporter
Sparked by a research project that showed the presence of food insecurity on college campuses, The Store was opened in December of 2017. The Store was started by Cara Cilburn Allen, a graduate student at the time, and Dr. Nathan Alleman, an associate professor in educational leadership. Their main goal was for Baylor to provide a sustainable format where students can have access to food without judgement.
Located in the Paul L. Foster Success Center, The Store allows students to come and shop for food twice a month with minimal formalities. Prior to entering The Store, students must fill out an intake form that tracks demographics, such as housing situations and why they are coming to the store. The form is located right outside of The Store, it lasts for a year and all students must do is swipe their ID card to enter.
The Store intern Gabrielle Duncan explained how their new semester survey represents the students on campus in relation to food insecurity.
“We send out our New2BU survey every semester, and that tells us what our need is going to look like that year. This semester we got about 3,500 responses and out of those we got about 532 that answered that they were food insecure,” Duncan said. “That was only 4,000 out of 18,000, so if we go based on that there is at least a couple thousand students here that are likely to behave in food insecurity.”
In preparation for the holiday season, The Store encourages students to sign up for Thanksgiving meal kits. Duncan explained how the program is anticipating over 100 students to register for meals, showing growth from last year’s program. In these kits, The Store is providing Thanksgiving type groceries to get students fulfilled during the holidays rather than complete meals. Around Christmas, The Store again provides groceries for students staying on campus during the holiday break.
“[Due to COVID-19] we have extra money, and I do believe they do Thanksgiving meals every year, but they said how only 50 people signed up last year, and we are almost to 100 now, so it’s probably going to be big this year,” Duncan said. “Students just sign up with us through our email, they RSVP and we will be creating time slots, and then they’ll come pick them up.”
Since the opening of The Store, there has been growth within the operation of the pantry. Notably, in the spring 2020 semester, The Store partnered with the Central Texas Food Bank. This meant that rather than relying on donations and buying food, The Store can cut costs and have a stronger selection by putting in an order to the food bank. While this brought a few stricter regulations to The Store, it has also immensely helped keep items in stock and available to students, Duncan explained.
A sister to The Store, The Fridge is another way students can have access to food on campus. Rather than giving out groceries, The Fridge is a campus-wide system of mini fridges that holds snacks for students. While relying on faculty to be in the specific office along with resources provided from The Store, students can easily solve their immediate hunger through The Fridge. Jorge Vielledent, a leader at The Fridge, explained how The Fridge meets the immediate needs of students.
“One of the things that we noticed was that just because we are giving people food, sometimes they are hungry in a right now situation,” Vielledent said. “We can give somebody a can of green beans, but in a lot of cases you can’t just eat a can of green beans walking around campus, so we wanted something a little more substantial.”
The Store is open Monday through Friday from noon to 5 p.m. for students needing help. With COVID-19 regulations, The Store and The Fridge are providing food to students who need it and are supporting students to achieve their best.