By Rae Baldwin (Director of Development, UNLV School of Integrated Health Sciences Development Office)
September 9, 2022 (Las Vegas): Since 2010, the UNLV food pantry has been providing food to students, staff, and their families in need. In March of 2022, to support these efforts and in collaboration with Three Square Food Bank, a monthly Farmers Market community event was launched. This monthly event is open to all in the community.
On the second Saturday of the month, in the parking lot in front of the Stan Fulton Building on Flamingo, you’ll find cars lined up to pick up almost forty pounds of food. The service is open to anyone who needs support and requires no documentation. Seven months in, the Farmers Markets have fed an estimated 2,500 people.
The Farmers Markets are the newest innovation in a program that has been growing since its launch in 2010. At that time, the pantry was created as a response to the recession to provide primarily canned goods to students and staff in need. This resource remains critical, as shown in a recent survey where 1 in 5 UNLV students reported experiencing food insecurity.
The experience and food provided by the pantry have improved significantly. In 2021, UNLV acquired space, a convenience store, adjacent to the university to create an inviting store-like experience for visitors. The food pantry collaborated with the UNLV community garden to provide healthy foods, including fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, and dairy, which the refrigeration included in the new space helped make possible.
The pantry is now managed by the UNLV School of Integrated Health Sciences nutrition program. The pantry’s coordinator, McKenzie, is a recent dietetics grad, and many of the student workers and volunteers are nutrition students. This has increased the focus on healthy eating at the pantry by including features like a color-coded system to guide users toward the most nutritious foods and healthy recipe cards utilizing items available at the pantry.
We recently asked Amalia, a senior at UNLV, about her experience at the pantry. She shared, “it wasn't until I experienced a reduction in work hours and pay that I learned about [the UNLV Food Pantry], but I'm so glad I did... I appreciate the variety of items offered, including the personal care items. It has helped my roommates and me a lot. It’s not embarrassing to use the Pantry, as you see people of all ages and races, even staff, coming to get food. I feel comfortable using the Pantry, and it feels so welcoming whenever I come in.”
All of this growth in the Food Pantry program has been made possible by the generous support of our community, including recent grants from MGM Resorts Foundation and Albertsons/VONS Foundation. It is also one of the most popular programs for faculty/staff support, with several individuals supporting the pantry monthly through payroll deduction. If you are as passionate about helping our community, please consider making a gift at engage.unlv/foodpantry or through payroll deduction.
To learn more about the UNLV Food pantry, visit www.unlv.edu/integratedhealth/food-pantry.