Utica College’s in-house food pantry, The Tangerine Grove, provides food and hygiene products to any Utica College student or employee who is in need. The food pantry recently reopened in room B23 of Hubbard Hall.
Now that the new location includes a refrigerator, a wider variety of food items will be offered once the food pantry receives fresh food donations.
The Tangerine Grove opened in January 2020 and served a steady stream of clients, until March 2020 when the campus shut down. The Grove was still able to provide food to several students who were unable to get home, however, the pantry remained closed for the rest of the spring semester.
Due to lack of space and safety precautions, an online ordering system was implemented in the spring of 2021, but very few clients used the pantry at that point.
According to Internship Program Director for Nutrition Erin Kelly, the original push to open a campus food pantry occurred several years ago and was spearheaded by Biology Professor Terri Provost.
During that time, the college wasn’t prepared to move forward with a pantry, but in the fall of 2019, several offices formed an advisory committee to set up the food pantry, Kelly said.
“We knew, from anecdotal evidence and speaking with faculty about their students’ experiences, that extra food resources were needed on campus and it seemed like the right time, as Governor Andrew Cuomo had mandated in the fall of 2018 that all state campuses offer a food pantry to their campus communities,” Kelly said.
Before the pantry opened, the advisory committee completed a campus-wide survey to assess the incidence of food insecurity as well as individuals’ opinions about the prospect of a campus food pantry, Kelly said.
“The response was mostly positive and indicated that there is a need for supplemental food sources for UC community members,” she said. “We feel that no matter the percentage of those who need food, if we can help even a handful of people have peace of mind and focus on their success and not their next meal, the pantry is a worthwhile enterprise.”
Now that The Tangerine Grove has reopened its doors, dry food items, such as pasta, sauce and canned vegetables are well stocked. However, foods that are easily prepared in a microwave, including soup, oatmeal and other instant meals, are not well stocked, Kelly said.
“Snacks such as granola bars, cups of fruit, popcorn and snack packs of mixed nuts or dried fruit are helpful and allergen-friendly foods, especially gluten-free options, are lacking,” she said. “With the addition of a refrigerator, we are able to offer fresh fruits and vegetables, milk, and even some frozen foods, none of which we currently have.”
Despite no data evidence, Kelly still believes that The Tangerine Grove food pantry is more essential during COVID-19.
“Although I don’t have data to support that opinion, in the general population, job losses and the end of extra unemployment payments have hit some families hard,” Kelly said. “I imagine these financial issues have likely filtered down to our UC community as well.”
According to Provost, working at The Tangerine Grove was wonderful because it provides an important service to the college community and adequate intake of nutrients is important to personal success, including learning and skill acquisition.
“Scientific research supports that diet is closely related to cognitive function, as adequate nutrition is essential for healthy brain functioning, optimal learning and academic performance,” Provost said. “The Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine reported that workers with healthy eating habits had high productivity. It seems that making sure that our students, staff and faculty are well fed is good for all of us.”
The food pantry has been a helpful and meaningful resource for those in need.
“As educators, we often narrow our focus to the mind,” Kelly said. “But it’s important to understand that without proper nourishment, people can’t focus fully on their work and they can’t feed their brains to function at their full potential. I want to make sure that all people have access to food, nutrient-dense foods if possible, so they can work to their highest potential. Maintaining The Tangerine Grove is one way that I can do that.”
The Tangerine Grove is open to students Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. -1:30 p.m. and from 4 -5 p.m.