The UNLV Cares Food Pantry and the UNLV Nutrition Center recently received a $250,000 federal grant to continue helping its students, faculty, and staff during the COVID-19 pandemic. The funding, part of the CARES Act, will enable the pantry to purchase food, equipment, and a new online ordering system, and to offer nutrition education to the community.
“This is a real lifeline to our community during a time of great need,” says Ronald T. Brown, dean of the School of Integrated Health Sciences, which houses the UNLV Cares Food Pantry and the UNLV Nutrition Center.
The UNLV Cares Food Pantry currently serves an estimated 250 members of the campus community each month. Due to an increase in food insecurity throughout the Las Vegas area exacerbated by the pandemic, its food supply has been stretched thin.
A crowdsourcing and email fundraising campaign in June raised an estimated $15,000. “We are incredibly grateful for all the people who donated to help feed our students,” Brown says. “Now with this additional funding, we will be able to do more at a time when people are struggling to put food on the table.”
The grant, distributed by the Nevada Department of Agriculture, will enable the pantry to consistently staff and maintain regular hours. This will be critical as the food pantry will now be able to install a new software ordering system, similar to those used by grocery stores, where people can order items online and pick them up or have them delivered.
Tanner Ellingsen, coordinator of the UNLV Cares Food Pantry, says the new system will allow his team to serve more people safely. “With a good majority of the students and staff learning or working remotely, this will allow us to fulfill our mission and serve even more people with enhanced safety protocols.”
The UNLV Cares Food Pantry will open in a new location by early next year and some of the CARES funding will be used to purchase refrigeration and other equipment to safely transport hot and cold food.
A key component to the grant is the unique partnership between the UNLV Cares Food Pantry and the UNLV Nutrition Center. The Las Vegas community will also be able to benefit from the center, which will share space with the food pantry.
People with certain health conditions, like diabetes for example, can learn the nutrition values of different types of food that can help or can worsen their condition. The center will also provide nutrition education materials, host cooking demonstrations, and offer healthy recipes for making the most with staples available at the food pantry.
Updates on when UNLV students, staff and faculty can use the new online ordering system will be posted to the UNLV Cares Food Pantry website.