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UT Arlington food pantry benefits from Kroger partnership, donation

A cart of produce and food sits in the middle of UT Arlington's Maverick Food Pantry. The carts hold bread, taco shelves, tortillas, potatoes, oranges and apples. Shelves of perishables comprise the background.
Courtesy Randy Gentry
/
Randy Gentry/@randygentry
UT Arlington's Maverick Food Pantry entered a five-year, $250,000 agreement with Kroger to address food insecurity on campus.

Staff and students who run the Maverick Pantry in UT Arlington's College Park Center hope their partnership with Kroger will provide consistency and enrichment in a time of inflation and greater-than-ever need.

Alexis Perez coordinates the university's Emergency Assistance Program. She says the partnership, announced last week, has already eased some of her stress. Donations to the pantry have dwindled since May amid surging costs.

"Now when we're low on bread, when we're low on produce, when we're low on anything, I know that we have a reservoir of funds that we can strategically utilize to keep our shelves stocked," Perez says.

Kroger provided $250,000 and a five-year commitment to the pantry, which opened in 2021. The pantry operates by appointment and carries refrigerated and non-perishable items, as well as baby food, diapers, formula, business attire and cap and gown rentals.

The pantry relied on social media and donations before the partnership launched, Perez says.

"We just had to rely on social media and university communications and just hope for donations," she says.

Kroger has sought long-term partnerships as part of its Zero Hunger Zero Waste initiative, which seeks to eliminate food insecurity and waste in communities by 2025, according to a university press release.

Maverick Pantry joins a network of other groups addressing food insecurity on and near campus, including Mission Arlington and the Christian Campus Center, or Tri-C.

Cyndi Needels, a Tri-C campus minister, says there is no such thing as "too many food pantries" at the moment.

"I would love it if the Maverick Pantry just kind of made us obsolete, because that would mean they have helped people to a level that the need wasn't so great," she says.

Tri-C serves as many as 150 students per week during the semester. The group served nearly double that amount during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, with assistance from UT Arlington.

Needels says she hopes Maverick Pantry will help provide more nutritious options for students and help direct them to more resources, such as the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

Perez says she wants Maverick Pantry to help destigmatize food insecurity and help people recognize the signs.

"What's important to me is that the students that come in seeking our services are not ashamed to do so and that they also are educated," she says.

Maverick Pantry operates by appointment from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mondays through Wednesdays. Students can schedule appointments by emailing eaf@uta.edu.

Tri-C food pantry distributions run from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays. Students can sign up for distribution by emailing utafoodpantry@gmail.com.

Got a tip? Email Kailey Broussard at kbroussard@kera.org. You can follow Kailey on Twitter @KaileyBroussard.

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Kailey Broussard is a reporter for KERA and The Texas Newsroom through Report for America (RFA). Broussard covers the city of Arlington, with a focus on local and county government accountability.