The Boise State food pantry, located in the Office of the Dean of Students, has been closed along with other parts of the university’s campus. An email was sent out to those that utilize the food pantry about the resource of $25 Albertsons e-gift cards that are now available to them.
“We spent all last week kind of figuring out if students are more or less homebound and, [since]we can’t physically connect with them to give them something, what is the next best option?” said Anna Moreshead, assistant dean of students. “So, we figured out ways to purchase e-gift cards and basically everything is done online.”
Students who received the email from the food pantry or are signed up for the mailing list can fill out the first-come, first-serve basis application that outlines students need to be taking a minimum of three credits and be a degree-seeking student.
The funds being used to purchase the e-gift cards are coming from the money they would normally use to purchase food. Over 100 people utilized the e-gift cards within 24 hours of the application opening, according to Moreshead.
“Unfortunately, [the gift card is]not going to be able to support folks who are out-of-state and who are no longer in our community, but we have to kind of be realistic about how far our resources can go,” Moreshead said. “So, the goal that we’re really trying to meet with the grocery gift card program is helping sustain the effort that the pantry was offering to our local students that stayed here.”
Before the pantry was closed, to-go food bags were pre-packaged so that those who needed them could take what they required. The hope was to relieve the possible contamination of people touching multiple items, according to Emily Hester.
“We understand you might not like every item in there, nor will you get to choose your favorite items,” Hester wrote in an email. “But we hope the items will still be helpful for you.”
The labeled bags contained non-allergen, vegetarian, gluten-free meal and snack items, hygiene kits and feminine products, according to Hester. One plan of action being considered before the closure of the food pantry was to help students by providing them financial aid through gift cards to grocery stores, which has now been implemented, according to Lauren Oe, associate dean of students.
“Part of [food bags]was just [focused on]what is the best way to minimize contact. That’s kind of what I think most folks are saying is the leading way that the coronavirus is being spread,” Oe said. “So if you have a lot of products out, people are touching things and then putting it back, I think we’re not doing our due diligence in keeping people safe.”
During the months of January and February, 358 students visited the pantry, with 148 in January and 210 in February, according to Moreshead. The bags that were prepackaged were brought to the Lincoln Townhomes where the students remaining on campus are being relocated for the remainder of the school year.
Moreshead and the food pantry staff are continuing to monitor the situation with a focus on making sure student’s needs are being met to the best of their ability with the resources available.
“Using the resources or connecting with community resources for those basic needs. I think those resource lists are coming in every direction so I am anticipating that these could be pretty overwhelming for students, like, where do I look, how do I even navigate [all of this]?” Moreshead said. “I think it’s just reminding students that this is a time to be reaching out and this is a time to be asking for help where you can and taking advantage of these resources that are being shared with you.”
On the office’s website, other resources are listed for students and Boise State community members in need to utilize, such as the Idaho Foodbank, St. Vincent de Paul food pantry and Care House Partnerships Foodbank.