For almost a year, the Helping Hand food pantry plus has helped University of Wisconsin-Stout students not be hungry and have the school supplies they need.
The pantry opened April 2, 2019 and has had 65 total users and more than 340 visits sharing about 3,000 pounds of goods, said Sarah Snyder. pantry coordinator and residence life coordinator in University Housing
With the current COVID-19 pandemic and UW-Stout moving to alternative delivery educational methods to protect the health of students, faculty and staff through the summer, the food pantry is no longer able to have students drop by and pick up food. However, students can arrange a package pickup of items through the Dean of Students’ office by calling 715-232-1181 or emailing the office.
“I think it is important we are still here for students who might need food support,” Snyder said.
With one-third of college students nationally food insecure, Snyder believes many students feel more comfortable getting food from a pantry affiliated with their campus. “Obviously they are welcome to use Stepping Stones of Dunn County, but they just feel more comfortable and maybe don’t have transportation to go the pantry off campus,” Snyder said.
In 2015, 1,917 UW-Stout students, 23%, were at or below the 150% level of the federal poverty level. According to a 2018 survey by the Wisconsin Hope Lab, 36% of university students in Wisconsin were food insecure, which affects their ability to concentrate and can impact their grades. Many reported skipping meals or cutting meal sizes because of lack of money.
Helping Hand gets food from the Feed My People Food Bank in Eau Claire.
Cash donations help the food pantry the most to buy needed items for students. The pantry recently got a generous donation from the Menomonie Market Food Co-op.
An account has been set up with Stout University Foundation to make donations to Helping Hand. Checks must be made to the Foundation and designate Helping Hand food pantry. Mail donations to: Stout University Foundation, 320 S. Broadway St., Menomonie, Wis., 54751. To contact the Foundation, call 715-232-5161.
Snyder said the food pantry also helps with the retention of UW-Stout students.
“Students are able to get the food they need, and we hope that helps them stay in school,” she noted. “It’s important for students to have access to healthy food to help them learn.”
The most popular items with students are breakfast sandwiches, frozen meat, and Hamburger Helper.
Eventually Helping Hand will move to the lower level of the Administration Building providing more space for the food pantry and the career closet, which offers free career wear to students who need it. From dresses to blazers and shoes to scarves, the closet has career wear for men and women in many sizes.
“We will be able to keep the career closet and the food pantry in the same space,” Snyder said. “It’s more private. It’s a more permanent location.”
For more information about how UW-Stout is responding to the COVID-19 challenges, go to www.uwstout.edu/coronavirus.