The business community has come together to support UW Tacoma students. In the past few weeks The Pantry has received gifts from local companies like Sound Credit Union and Harbor Foodservice as well as from international corporations including Coca-Cola and AT&T. “I’m overwhelmed by the generosity shown by these different organizations,” said the Center for Equity & Inclusion’s Nedralani Mailo.
The Pantry has provided nutritious, culturally appropriate food as well as hygiene items to thousands of UW Tacoma students since its creation back in 2016. The COVID-19 pandemic and the accompanying closures and social distancing measures forced staff at The Pantry to get creative. “Instead of doing drop-ins, we have folks place their orders online,” said Mailo. Students choose from a pre-determined list of diet preferences including omnivore, gluten-free and vegetarian.
Until recently, students had to come pick up their orders. “They [students] don’t go in The Pantry,” said Mailo. Pantry staff are mindful of social distancing guidelines. Students are let in the building but pick up their order in the hallway instead of the more-confined physical space of DOU 104, where The Pantry is located.
Recently AT&T made a generous $50,000 donation to UW pantries, with $25,000 going to The Pantry at Tacoma.
“AT&T is proud to support the UW pantries so they can address students dealing with food insecurity during this challenging time,” said Bob Bass, President-AT&T Washington. “This contribution will ensure that hunger is not a barrier to success and UW students can pursue their education virtually.”
“These funds can be used [by The Pantry] to buy food, pay student workers or even buy a new fridge if that were needed,” said UW Tacoma Director of Events and Sponsorships BrieAnna Bales.
The company also offered to have its employees make pantry deliveries to students living in a ten-mile radius of campus. “AT&T has long-supported all three University of Washington campuses and this latest gift is a significant and important investment in The Pantry,” said Bales.
The delivery system is akin to a two-week trial. A group of six AT&T employees did their first round of deliveries on Monday, April 20 and followed that up with another round of deliveries on April 27. “This is a test to see if there’s demand so we’re really trying to get people to opt-in,” said Mailo. “If there’s enough interest then we’ll talk with AT&T about continuing the program." Mailo has also put out the call to the UW Tacoma community. "We're actively looking for volunteers to make deliveries to students," she said.
Before you can give people food, you first need to get it. Kent-based Harbor Foodservice provides food to restaurants and grocery stores. “With the pandemic they’ve had an excess of food that they had no place for,” said Mailo. “They were so generous and gave us a tremendous amount of frozen and refrigerated foods.”
Likewise, Coca-Cola donated product to be distributed through the UW Tacoma Pantry.
Addressing hunger in our area is a primary focus of Sound Credit Union. It makes sense then that the Tacoma-based financial institution gave $10,000 to The Pantry. “We know these are trying times for many people and we hope that this can help make an impact for students and their families,” said Jennifer Reed, vice president for public relations at Sound Credit Union.
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John Burkhardt, UW Tacoma Communications, 253-692-4536 or firstname.lastname@example.org