By Contributing Writer Jordon DaSilva-Martins
Did you know that 28% of the university’s population experiences food insecurity? That is almost 2000 students, faculty, and staff! Food insecurity is limited food availability and access based on numerous factors. Such as, time, income, health restrictions and/or needs, etc. You may not notice by being swamped with classes and endless exams, but there is still a need for your support of your community. Arnie’s Cupboard is looking for volunteers to help food insecure Corsairs.
Arnie’s Cupboard was started five years ago by two UMass Dartmouth students at the Dartmouth Bible Campus. Although it was a small space, the goal for the program was to attack and eradicate food insecurity on campus. Deacon Frank Lucca, supervisor for Arnie’s Cupboard says that for the past five years, the program was receiving donations from campus’s organizations, religious groups, and faculty which all helped stock the pantry.
Lucca reflects on that relying on donations was “not a continuous source of food” so the organization applied to the Boston Food Bank in April 2019. After approval, they received their first delivery of 1000 pounds of food in September. Every fourth Wednesday of the month 1000 to 1500 pounds of fresh and frozen food arrives at Arnie’s. Without it, the only provided food would have been boxed or canned. Now people can take home frozen meats, frozen vegetables and fresh items such as eggs, milk, and cheese that are kept in the Cupboard’s fridge and freezer.
“All these important things to keep people healthy,” said Lucca.
A new exciting addition to the program is Arnie’s Meals which is in corporation with UMass Dinning Services, with Chef Kevin Gibbons. Every Tuesday and Thursday visitors can bring home freshly prepared dinner that include protein vegetable and starch.
Currently, Arnie’s has three student managers who cover the shifts and train the existing 125 registered volunteers. Having volunteer is “biggest thing we need right especially because first semester is always shaky” and it is important that “we take care of our own,” says Lucca. To have full and unlimited access to the food pantry, all you need is a UMass pass. Your information is kept confidential and they ask is for you to scan in for data needed for the Boston Food Bank.
Student manager Narcisse Kunda, sophomore from Framingham, has been with Arnie’s Cupboard for two months. Kunda was already involved with the Leduc Center and has passion for solving social issues. A huge part of his job is to stay in contact with Lucca, recording of food in and outtake and helping new volunteers ease in. One day he hopes to see more students utilize the program and its resources. He says that “You will hear people are hungry, but they don’t know that there’s legit free food here.” He wants to focus on informing people and “to be aware of the pantry and use it more often.” Recently, two young ladies were volunteering with the organization of the new shipment. Natalina Villarson, who started volunteering to complete a class assignment focused on philanthropy has motivated to continue her journey with Arnie Cupboard. She has even brought in a friend, Sasha Gaston, to join the cause, who feels good because “it is a way to give back to community.” They both advocate for more volunteers via word to mouth but would really like to see others commit to the program and its cause.
To volunteer is a simple easy process. Using the online link, you can select the days you are available to volunteer and receive automatic reminders. There should be no one who suffers from food insecurity because there are more than enough resources to go around. By volunteering you can be that connection.