The Food Pantry has opened its doors to anyone in the University of Iowa community who might be struggling to put food on the table.

By Travis Coltrain

Although a food pantry has been established on campus since the start of the school year, members of the organization are hoping more people will use the resource.

“The Food Pantry has already had six clients in the first five days it has been open,” said Ben Marks, the pantry’s co-director and creator. “We have plenty of food.”

[Disclosure: Marks worked previously as a DI metro editor].

The Food Pantry provides healthy food and toiletries to anyone in the University of Iowa community who is in need. Anyone with a valid UI identification card, including students, staff, and faculty, can benefit from it.

Its aim is to not only help those in need but to educate people on the issue of hunger and to reduce the stigma surrounding it.

The pantry opened its doors in 209 IMU on Aug. 22 and has been “very successful,” according to the pantry’s co-director, Sarah Ingwersen.

“We’re giving quality nutritious food out to those who cannot afford it, which is an amazing thing,” she said. “Eating ramen for every meal can badly affect your health, so we try to offer as many nutritious things as we can.”

Marks said members are striving to provide fresh fruit and vegetables to those who need it, “especially allergen-free foods such as gluten-free and dairy-free products,” he said. “We also have toiletries such as tampons and soap.”

The Food Pantry does not accomplish this alone, though; it has a few partners, such as the co-ed fraternity Alpha Phi Omega.

“[The fraternity] sends over two people every Monday to help us out,” said volunteer director Sydney Hofferber. “We have every volunteer sign a confidentiality waiver before they start working with us.”

This is to ensure that no one who benefits from the food pantry will ever need to worry about others finding out, she said.

Other partners include the Student United Way, which will help the pantry set up events from Sept. 18-23, including lectures as well as lessons on how to cook on a budget.

“We know when it comes to students, time and money are the biggest factors,” Marks said.

All of the events will center in September, because it is Hunger Awareness Month.

The Johnson County Crisis Center has offered advice to pantry members, Marks said.

“They have lots of knowledge on how to run a food pantry,” he said. “We hope to establish a better partnership with them in the near future.”

Marks has worked on getting the Food Pantry open for about a year. He got the idea in the fall of 2015, and then he and some others spent most of the spring working on a proposal to present to the UI Student Government.

UISG allocated $10,000 to the pantry to get it running, along with an additional $2,000 from the Associated Residence Halls’ student government.

“We were well-prepared by the time we proposed the idea to the student government,” Marks said. “They were very supportive.”