With challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, the W Food Pantry has added new items to their shelves to best fit students' needs.
In addition to the usual food and hygiene products, Wayne State students will now find technology and education resources like laptops, mobile hotspots, calculators, lab equipment, facemasks and more.
“Students and their families may be facing precarious times with the loss of employment that has occurred during this pandemic,” Dean of Students David Strauss said. “We want to provide more resources so we worked collaboratively with many other units on campus like the Office of Computing and Information Technology, the Office of Enrollment Management, the Undergraduate Library and the Office of Teaching and Learning.”
Technology products and internet access have been major concerns in online learning during the pandemic.
“We don’t have an unlimited supply. One of the challenges right now, with everyone working online, is that there is a major demand for internet access, cameras, headsets, laptops and hot spots,” Strauss said. “We are putting the orders, but there is certainly a huge demand.”
Strauss said students living on and off campus can pick up these items for free at the pantry.
“Students will connect with us and say that they are in need of an electronic device and we will make arrangements for them to come pick it up and use it for as long as they need it,” he said.
Along with new items come changes which have been implemented to ensure safety at the pantry.
Before the pandemic, the pantry had distribution days Sunday through Thursday, said Iman Mekled, pantry public relations coordinator and recent WSU graduate.
“We would have our daily shift managers there, and people could come in for our four-hour blocks each day,” Mekled said. “There was a grocery list where everyone could choose what variety of groceries they would like.”
The pantry has remained open during the spring/summer semester, but reduced its days of operation to one day a week and opted for pre-packaged bags that include general, sustainable food items, said Rainesha Williams-Fox, coordinator of student life.
The pantry has seen about 15 students a week since the beginning of the pandemic, Williams-Fox said.
“We only do distribution on Wednesdays now from 12 to 4 p.m.,” she said. “Students just come grab a bag and leave. They don’t have to leave any information or show us their access ID. We want to practice social distancing.”
To protect students and student employees, the pantry now has desk shields, sanitizing materials, facemasks and limits contact between workers and those picking up items, Williams-Fox said.
For the fall semester, students will be able to choose their desired items again.
“We will be asking students to fill out a form on Get Involved to eliminate food waste,” Williams-Fox said. “We will go back to our original distribution, just more digital. They just need to fill out the form and come pick up their orders.”
Mekled said students have been reaching out to express how the pantry has been a helpful resource for them.
“The pantry has been so important to have on campus, just given the number of students who require it because it is need-based and available,” Mekled said “I think that it is so essential right now. Even just running the social media pages, I have students messaging me at odd hours of the night asking if we are still going to be open.”
Nour Rahal is news editor at The South End. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cover photo by Jack Filbrandt, editor-in-chief at The South End. He can be reached at email@example.com.