By Samantha Wahl, Contributing Writer
It’s that time of year again. ‘Tis the season for writing papers, scrambling for deadlines, and for some of us, rationing our last handfuls of meal swipes. Food insecurity- defined as unreliable access to food- is pretty common among college students the whole year long. Tuition is expensive, after all, and university students aren’t known for their exorbitant wealth. Depending on your individual situation, it can sometimes be hard to tell quite how you’re going to afford groceries next week, or even where your next meal is coming from.
Enter Arnie’s Cupboard. Founded in 2016, the on-campus food pantry is dedicated to helping UMass Dartmouth students handle food insecurity. Running out of a secluded room off the edge of the main auditorium, the Cupboard is stocked with canned goods and other shelf-stable foods, as well as personal care items like toothbrushes and soap, available to any Corsair in need. I got a moment with Frank Morris, who works closely with Cupboard coordinator Frank Lucca and student volunteers, to discuss the Cupboard’s philosophy and plans for the future.
Morris tells me that the Cupboard is looking forward to a collaboration with the Boston Food Bank, which will help the Cupboard to install a refrigerator and freezer in the cupboard. This would greatly increase the range of products that the Cupboard could provide; right now, only shelf-stable foods are available.
Another perk of the Boston Food Bank collaboration would be the ability to be more selective about food stocked by the cupboard. Local donors have been extremely generous over the Cupboard’s lifespan, but there can be pitfalls to depending on a relatively small resource pool. Morris explains: “Sometimes you work with a food bank and it’s like, ‘Here’s a hundred pounds of squash.’ The students look at that and go, ‘Gee, I don’t know if I’ve got pots to deal with that.’ So… we [want] to be getting items that would be usable by the students.” Through the partnership with the Boston Food Bank, foods that are useful and in-demand by college students would become easier for the Cupboard to come by.
So, what is the process for getting food from the Cupboard like? Well, it goes like this: a student brings their UMass Pass to the Cupboard, where it is scanned by a machine for record-keeping purposes. (The volunteers in the Cupboard never see it.) If it’s your first time, the staff gives you a link to a survey to complete later. Then you pick out what you want from the Cupboard, have your selections weighed (again for record-keeping’s sake) and are free to go. The volunteers are eager to assist anyone looking for help, and at no point do they even ask for a user’s name. It’s an incredibly discreet process; like many food pantries, Arnie’s Cupboard greatly values the comfort and dignity of those they are helping. Morris explains to me that the foremost purpose of the Cupboard is to make academic success easier for students by relieving the stress of food insecurity:
“The whole point of the place is to eliminate food issues for students so that they can be more productive as students.” To that end, the pantry’s hours were expanded this semester; it’s now open for an extra hour on Tuesday afternoon, and two extra hours on Wednesday mornings. When asked what inspired this, Morris explains that the pantry aims to fit into students’ schedules to keep food as accessible as possible.
Arnie’s Cupboard is a fantastic resource for students. When asked what he would say to food-insecure students nervous about using the cupboard, Morris is encouraging: “Don’t be bashful, use the resource. It’s what it’s there for.”
Well said, Frank.
Arnie’s Cupboard is open on Mondays from 4-6 PM, Tuesdays from 2-7, Wednesdays from 9-11 AM and again from 4-6 PM, Thursdays from 4-7, and Fridays from 4-6. If an alternative time is needed, students can email Frank Lucca at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Cupboard is located in Room 208 of the Main Auditorium building.