MISSOULA – University of Montana students came up with an interesting idea back in July on how to combat hunger on campus.
Now, six months later, the UM Food Pantry is now open thanks to a lot of hard work and effort.
“We started running a survey in the fall to gather hard data on who is dealing with this issue on campus and that was a ton of work. We got to go to Philly to the #RealCollege conference to talk about that, which was awesome, and then in this space, especially, honestly, a lot of physical labor,” UM Pantry student coordinator Kat Cowley said.
“This was kind of the room where things go to die until probably mid-winter break when we really got in here and cleaned up and shelves and stuff,” she added.
It’s still early in its inception, so the pantry is taking anything they can get with the plan of filling in some gaps later.
“It’s mostly what is being donated to us. There is not really a specific plan for ‘I need a hundred cans and four tampons,’ It’s more like we will take what you can give us and then, based on what’s being donated, we will start purchasing things that just aren’t showing up here,” Cowley said.
“I know a couple groups, including a sorority, are running a hygiene drive for us soon. So that will be awesome, but yeah — it’s all donations and who can give us what, when,” she continued.
It was tough to convince people to help start a project with not a lot of hard data available at the time, but coordinating efforts found a way to prevail.
“It’s kind of hard to get by, it was the thing because people like hard numbers when they are funding things and making plans and I understand that all I care about is feeding people. So we found a way to make it happen and we’ve had a couple, we’ve had a good mix of clients and customers, which is awesome,” Cowley said.
The pantry partners with Missoula Food Bank, Montana Food Bank Network, the Missoula Chamber of Commerce, Blackfoot, Missoula Federal Credit Union and other community organizations.
The pantry is located at the West Atrium desk in the UC and is open from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesdays and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Fridays.
There also are self-serve “cupboards” located at Missoula College Room 430, TRiO Support Services in UM’s Lommasson Center Room 180, the VETS Office at 1000 E. Beckwith Ave., and American Indian Student Services in UM’s Payne Family Native American Center Suite 113.
The UM Food Pantry accepts nonperishable food donations, as well as toiletries, toilet paper, feminine hygiene products and household cleaning supplies. Monetary donations can be submitted any time online and are used to help fund pantry operations and to purchase undersupplied food and products.
To make a donation or get involved, call the UM Food Pantry at 406-243-5125 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reporting by Connor McCauley for MTN News