Let’s Help Campus Food Pantry

Logo for the Jane B. Gearhart Full Circle Food Pantry at the University of Arkansas

The food bank on our Fayetteville campus needs our help.

Due to the novel coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic, the Jane B. Gearhart Full Circle Food Pantry at the University of Arkansas is getting an unusually high number of requests while supplies are getting more expensive and a little scarce.

“Monetary donations are accepted, and at this time they are preferred,” said Jon Mahaffey, chair of the Full Circle Pantry. “My team has put less emphasis on food donations as we attempt to limit outside exposure inside the pantry.”

Jon provided data to show the increase in need.

“We’ve seen an increase in students served as well as first time clients in the month of March as a result of the Covid-19 related changes to campus operations.” See tables.

Local 965 President Bret Schulte was surprised at the data.

“Those numbers are striking. It’s important to note the number of students served has increased 87 percent even though most students are gone. That really demonstrates the need of the few students remaining.”

Logo for the Jane B. Gearhart Full Circle Food Pantry at the University of Arkansas

The ability to purchase as needed, having enough funding, is crucial, Jon said.

“We are reliably able to purchase certain shelf-stable items such as grains (rice, pasta) and dry beans from the NWA Food Bank cheaply, but the food bank has a high demand for proteins such as peanut butter, canned meats, so it’s harder for us to purchase those items from the food bank. We have to turn to Sam’s Club, which is doable, but a bit more expensive for us. But that’s what’s available right now.

“Fundraising right now is important for the longevity of the Full Circle Food Pantry,” Jon said. “We are spending more on food because we cannot rely on campus-wide food drives during campus closures, and we are seeing an increase in folks served. Any funds we receive are able to offset the costs of keeping up with serving during the pandemic, so that we can continue to serve business as usual when we’re finally all past this.”

Due to closure of the campus, the food pantry has suspended express delivery service, online orders and in-person walk up orders for the rest of the semester. Instead it is packing for clients Full Circle Fast Bags.

The Fast Bags can be picked up Monday, Wednesday, and Friday afternoons. UA or UAMS ID cards are required. Pickups can be made at the pantry, C204 in Bud Walton Hall, and at the Ceramics Studio Outpost, 326 Eastern Ave.

The schedule is detailed on the pantry’s Facebook page and website. Pantry staff maintains Covid-19 safety precautions in food preparation and distribution.

Who Have We Served?

March 1-24, 2020March 2019
Graduate students2514
Undergraduate students3317
Students, Total5831
Hourly workers186
First-time users31 (77 household members)18 (34 household members)
Total (including household members per client)409227
These numbers do not include those served by our Full Circle Fast Bags, which we estimate is 490 people from 245 bags.
Anecdotally, Full Circle Fast Bags have largely been picked up by international students, graduate students (specifically teaching assistants and graduate assistants, as TAs and GAs have lost income) and undergrads who haven’t moved off of campus yet. Some staff are picking up bags as well.

Update: From March 25-31 of this year, the food pantry has given out an additional 109 bags of food between Full Circle and the Ceramics studio, Jon said, estimating that is a total of 218 additional people served.

Ceramics Studio Outpost Fast Bag Pickups (As of 3/25/2020)

Total Bags Given51
Total time outpost open for pick up12 hours