What began during 2010 as a campus holiday food drive quickly evolved into the year-round UNLV Food Pantry dedicated to helping any university student, staff, and faculty member who needed additional food items.
Managed by the School of Allied Health Sciences and located on the Paradise Campus, UNLV Food Pantry provides non-perishable foodstuffs and sundries to participants more than 300 times each month. The food selection often varies month-to-month, and sometimes travel-sized toiletries such as toothpaste and soaps are available. Those who visit the pantry for help also receive information about other assistance programs offered by the city and county.
“Many of the people we see stop by every day the pantry is open, and they are sincerely grateful for the assistance,” said Tanner Ellingsen, UNLV Food Pantry coordinator. “Our pantry has become a safety net for those Rebels who need a little extra help. We are fortunate to receive support from many members and organizations of the campus community, including the Graduate and Professional Student Association and CSUN, as well as guidance and assistance from Three Square Food Bank.”
Although about 10,000 visits have been made to the pantry in the last eight years, Ellingsen is concerned about those on campus who have not sought help. According to a survey released earlier this year by researchers at Temple University and the Wisconsin HOPE lab, 36 percent of students at 66 surveyed colleges and universities reported not having enough to eat. The report also revealed that 6 percent of university students reported not eating for an entire day during the past month.
“As one of the most diverse campuses in the country, we have a student body and a workforce with a wide range of cultural backgrounds and traditions surrounding food,” Ellingsen said. “Once they get here, some may not be certain where to purchase necessary groceries, how to find nutritious meals, or [they may not] understand the purpose of a food pantry. And there are others who may be embarrassed to visit us and continue to suffer in silence. The number of people we have helped has increased steadily during the years, which means the need to support those on campus has also grown.”
Ellingsen said the Food Pantry will be part of a five-year research study with the Southern Nevada Health District, beginning in 2019, that will measure food insecurity on campus.
“The Food Pantry is available to anyone enrolled or employed at UNLV. While we aid many students, we also help a fair number of staff members, too. We plan to expand our services and become a go-to resource for food assistance, learning healthy choices, and shopping on a budget."