Food Pantry Provides Hundreds of Pounds of Food to Students in Need During Pandemic
The pantry, which has transitioned to online ordering to promote social distancing, provides food such as pasta and breads to fruits and vegetables.
(April 14, 2020) – Over the last three weeks, the Support-A-Bull Market at USF St. Petersburg distributed more than 500 pounds of food to a growing number of students impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.
That number almost equals the total amount of food the campus food pantry has distributed since it opened back in September, according to Joseph Contes, the assistant director of student outreach and support who manages the Support-A-Bull Market.
The high demand indicates how the pandemic and its impact on many sectors of the economy is directly affecting college students, from lost jobs to reduced family support due to changing financial situations.
“Starting the week of March 23, we really saw a major uptick in both the number of students ordering food as well as those donating to the pantry,” said Contes. “And I foresee the high demand will continue for weeks if not months longer as more students will likely face financial strains.”
The pantry, which has transitioned to online ordering to promote social distancing, provides food such as pasta and breads to fruits and vegetables. Hygiene products including soap and toothpaste are also provided to students. In addition, thanks to a partnership with SPCA Tampa Bay, the pantry also provides food for dogs and cats. Support-A-Bull is available to all active students enrolled at USF St. Petersburg and is free of charge.
Students order online, similar to ordering from a grocery store such as Publix, placing what they need in their digital shopping cart to be picked up or delivered. Upon submitting an order, students receive a communication to confirm the order, clarify additional requests and coordinate a pick-up time and location. Most orders are processed the same day. All products are sanitized before they are added to the pantry and again when they are put into bags to be given to students.
All products are sanitized before they are added to the pantry and again when put into bags for students.
As the number of food orders grew, the pantry also saw a tremendous outpouring of donations from the community. Over the past three weeks, more than 630 pounds of food items were donated, said Contes.
“We are tremendously thankful that when the demand increased for the services we provide here, our donors and their donations increased to match it,” added Contes.
The campus food pantry began as a student-driven initiative to provide emergency food assistance to students in need as well as address food insecurity issues. Past studies have painted a troubling picture of food security on college campuses. One 2017 study found up to half of all undergrad students experience food insecurity. Another one in 2018 revealed that nearly 30 percent of college students are hungry nationwide.
“Both resident and commuter students are affected by food insecurity,” said Noah Miller, a psychology major who worked on the initial proposal for the pantry. “We want to bring this problem to light on campus and show that we have a space for these students to get food, no matter what.”
The Support-A-Bull Market is a collaborative effort, with participation from multiple campus departments to keep it running. The pantry receives a monthly food donation from RCS Pinellas, and financial support from the university’s Town and Gown organization.
To support the Support-A-Bull Market, food donations can be dropped off at our campus drop off location inside the University Police Departments lobby, 530 3rd Street South, St. Petersburg FL 33701.
Members of the community can also provide support via a gift here: https://giving.usf.edu/how/herdfunder/support-bull-usf-st-petersburg