Volunteers standing outside of the campus closet located in White Hall

Shepherd’s Pantry and Closet

In 2018 Shepherd University had a major power outage in West Woods, due to a storm that rolled through Shepherdstown. Many students lost food they had in their refrigerators and didn’t have food that was non-microwavable. The President’s Office wanted to make sure that students would still have food if something like that were to happen again.

In 2019 the university sent out an assessment to gauge needs on campus. On the survey were questions to gauge food insecurity as well as need for clothes and shelter. Sixteen percent of students answered the survey and of them 32.3% dealt with food insecurity and 15% said they knew someone who did.

With this survey the idea for the emergency food reserve transformed into a supplemental food pantry. There was a focus group created to try and decide what the pantry should look like. There are many different kinds of food pantries, some have pre-packed bags with goods in them, and others are formatted like stores. 

Ultimately, it was decided that it would be formatted like a store where students and faculty could come in and would be given a reusable bag that they could fill that would cover a week’s worth of need. 

On their first arrival they are given a reusable bag they are asked to bring back for future visits.  Students give volunteers their ramblers where they record the students usage of the pantry and write down the items students want to take.

Dr. Jenny Flora headed this project, finding funding, and a space that the pantry could use. She wants this pantry to relieve students of the stress of food insecurity so they can focus on why they are at Shepherd University. 

“The pantry is not part of my job, but I loved it so much.”

Flora now works as the Director of the Wellness Center as well as being the Pantry manager.

The pantry is run by student and community volunteers. It is located in the bottom of Boteler Hall on Monday’s from 9 a.m. – noon and on Thursday’s between 3-6 p.m.

The other need the survey showed was a need for clothing. Flora began looking for a spot for a “campus closet” and at around the same time Michelle Hunt, an environmental science major, spoke to one of her teachers, Dr. Milton, about opening a closet at Shepherd University after learning about the mass amount of clothing waste that was being produced each year. 

Hunt focuses on sustainability. Americans generate 16 million tons of textile waste a year, and Hunt wanted to challenge the “idea of owning clothing.” She and Flora came together with a shared goal of reducing clothing waste and providing clothing to students.

Students can come into the closet and write down on an outtake sheet the clothing they are checking out. If they need a nice button down shirt and are only going to wear it one time, they are encouraged to bring it back, rather than let it sit in their closet unused until they throw it away. Students are not required to bring anything back, but for one time wears, are encouraged to, to support sustainable clothing practices.

The closet is open on Wednesdays from 3 pm to 5 pm and Thursdays from 11 am to 1 pm, and run by a handful of student volunteers who are very enthusiastic to dress up those who swing by. It is located on the third floor of White Hall. They are looking for more volunteers. 

“The closet helped my style so much. I don’t buy a lot of clothes. I’m trying to be frugal– I’m a college kid,” said Zara Alegaili a volunteer at the closet. 

There are hopes to expand both of these projects. They have both expressed a need for a large space so they can provide even more to students. 

If you are looking to support either the closet or the pantry, don’t be shy to donate! The closet asks for lightly used clothes, and those can be donated while the closet is open. The pantry asks for monetary donations as they want more perishables to be available to students.

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