STORRS, Conn. – Propelled by the success of food pantries at each of the regional campuses, Husky Harvest at UConn’s main campus in Storrs will open Monday for thousands of students without a meal plan and without a full cupboard.
While the pantry will be available to anyone with a UConn ID, it is geared to those living off-campus who are not required to have a meal plan and therefore may not have regular access to nutritious food, Michael White, executive director of Dining Services, says. That includes 2,000 undergraduate students who live in places like the Carriage House Town Homes and Celeron Square apartments.
White says the first step to establishing the pantry was finding a location that was central to campus, had patron parking, and offered some level of discreetness. Almost fortuitously, the 600-square-foot former convenience store in the Charter Oak Apartments Community Center popped onto the radar.
With a bus stop not far from the front door and located just off Discovery Drive, the space also was ideal because students who live in the Charter Oak Apartments aren’t required to have meal plans and might very well be among those who would benefit the most.
“We wanted a location that would service not only the undergraduate population, but the graduate students, faculty, staff, essentially anyone with a UConn ID,” White says. “That had a lot to do with how we talked about locations.”
A grand opening of the Storrs location for invited guests and the media will be held at 10 a.m. Monday, March 20, at the pantry in the Charter Oak Apartments Community Center, 916 Tower Court Road, Storrs. Regular hours will be Mondays and Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Husky Harvest at Storrs will operate in much the same way as the Husky Harvest pantries at the regional campuses that have opened over the last several months. A partnership with Connecticut Foodshare is enabling the venture and providing grocery staples with regular deliveries.
White says he’s borrowing ideas from experiences at the regional campuses, including Avery Point, where staff has made available simple recipes that account for ingredients typically found on the shelves, like stewed tomatoes and beans. In Stamford, Husky Harvest offers personal care items, including shampoo and deodorant, another offering White hopes to have with funding from the Undergraduate Student Government.
“I don’t want to get into the scenario – and I know it happens in life – that someone has to decide between putting food on their plate and taking a shower,” White says. “That’s a very challenging decision for anybody to make. Just being able to take a shower sometimes can really reset your wellbeing.”
Eventually, he says he expects to take donations from the public but plans to operate this semester solely with Connecticut Foodshare support. In time, though, he can see departmental food drives, a kitchen equipment and gadget collection, and leftovers from the cafes all earmarked for pantry patrons.
“This is no longer a topic that people are afraid of,” White says. “We know that the UConn community will go above and beyond.”
Questions about Husky Harvest can be directed to Kimberly Phillips, Kimberly.DeBaise@uconn.edu.