On any given week, the UNLV Cares Food Pantry hands out about 60 bags of groceries to students, staff, and faculty who need the extra help, a need that has been exacerbated by the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The effects are evident at the pantry, which is now struggling to keep its shelves stocked and continue its mission of serving as a stopgap for members of the UNLV community who are unable to make ends meet or may have to skip meals.
“We have definitely noticed an uptick in our graduate assistants who generally live on stipends and who may have a member of their households who have been furloughed or lost their jobs,” said Tanner Ellingsen, food pantry coordinator.
To ensure these students and other members of the campus community don’t go without, Ronald T. Brown, dean of the School of Integrated Health Sciences, is championing a Rebel Raiser fundraising campaign to keep the pantry going through the crisis and in the long run.
“The UNLV Cares Food Pantry is such a valuable asset to our community,” Brown said. “We have always taken care of our own and today we are asking for more help to feed our students and other members of the university family. This is essential UNLV and what we do naturally,” he said.
Under normal circumstances, shelves at the UNLV Cares Food Pantry would be filled from top to bottom with non-perishable items such as beans, pasta, rice, canned vegetables, and breakfast items. Today they are empty, except for a few cans of green beans and maple syrup.
Job loss from the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a dramatic increase in food insecurity throughout the Las Vegas area.
According to a recent news report, a new study from Three Square Food Bank shows the food insecurity rate in the Las Vegas area has shot up to 20.5 percent, up from about 12.9 percent prior to the pandemic. This translates to approximately 448,000 people, including one in three children in Clark County, who will experience food insecurity, defined by the USDA as limited or uncertain access to enough food to live an active, healthy life.
One student calls the food pantry a lifesaver. “It came at a time where I thought I would have to go without food or put myself on a strict rationed diet due to lack of funds during the COVID era. I am grateful to the considerate people who went above and beyond. I know in the future when I become a professional I will remember this time and the benevolence of those who supported students like me especially during such a difficult time.”
Ellingsen said the pantry, which relies on community partners and donor support, has been able to provide healthy meals and can make each dollar that is donated go a long way.
- $10 feeds one person for a day or buys one case of peanut butter
- $50 feeds three people for two days or buys eight cases of canned vegetables
- $100 feeds a family of five for five days or buys six pre-packaged bags for the students
The UNLV Cares Food Pantry has been serving the campus community for more than a decade, and has distributed more than 80,000 pounds of food across 12,000 visits in that time. The food pantry will open in a new larger location this fall or early next year to help more people. It also will expand its offerings to include perishables, requiring additional operating budget.
The UNLV Cares Food Pantry is managed by the School of Integrated Health Sciences. It receives support from the Graduate and Professional Student Association and CSUN, as well as guidance and assistance from Three Square Food Bank.
All of the money raised will go toward the purchase of non-perishable goods. You can provide tax-deductible donations through the UNLV Foundation or through Rebel Raiser. For information on food donations, visit the Food Pantry website.