UNT Dallas and Food Bank partnership aims to nourish minds, fuel success with on-campus care pantry
Southern Dallas, including Oak Cliff and Pleasant Grove, comprise several neighborhoods with the highest concentration of social vulnerability during crisis and food insecurity.
The area surrounding UNT Dallas is in one of those neighborhoods.
The relationship between UNT Dallas and the North Texas Food Bank began in January 2020, but quickly grew once the pandemic hit two months later. The university was asked by the North Texas Food Bank to expand into a mobile food distribution site because they had the infrastructure, including outdoor space and parking lot available.
In the past three years since the mobile pantry's inception, over one million pounds have been distributed to the community.
"This year, so far we have distributed a little bit over 80,000 pounds of food to around 3,800 individuals. So, that number obviously will continue to increase throughout the year," said Eronia King, Project Coordinator of Experiential Learning. The Experiential Learning Office focuses on providing UNT Dallas students with access to networking, professional, and volunteer opportunities—such as summer internships.
"(The) partnership initially began as a way to provide fresh fruits and vegetables to the campus community, so really just students, faculty and staff," King said.
As the semester comes to an end, the mobile pantry will continue through the summer but not without its own challenges.
"In the summer months, because we don't have a lot of on campus classes and it's hot, it can be a little difficult to get people to come out", King said.
The pantry taps into campus organizations and other campus students who may need service hours to help power the mobile pantry.
Krystal Deckard is a rising Senior at UNT Dallas. She's vice president of the UNTD Student Government Association and Black Student Union. Deckard is also a member of the Upsilon Mu chapter of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority.
"I try to volunteer every other month and as president of the Pre-Law society, try to get members of my organization to join and volunteer as well," Deckard said.
This is the "bring a friend" method King speaks about where the school sees a majority of participation during the school year that sometimes spills over into the summer.
Blazing a trail of success on campus
The university prides itself on serving as a pathway to social mobility for their students and alumni.
The university is doing just that with their on-campus care pantry that opened during the beginning of this 2022-2023 school year.
The Trailblazers Care Pantry is available to all enrolled students at UNT Dallas. Like any other food pantry, the care pantry offers non-perishable and perishable food items as well as hygiene products.
The care pantry goes a step further for students in providing clothing for internships and job interviews.
While Deckard has not personally utilized the care pantry, she says she has been able to refer students in need to receive resources.
"It's been really beneficial for our campus, our students. The care pantry is something on our campus that's a judgment-free zone. You could go there and be assisted without being judged because you have the need, " Deckard said.
This is the first summer the care pantry has been active on campus, and the hours for the Trailblazer Care Pantry, which are adjusted by semester, have not been released for summer.
However, students have previously had the ability to pick up a "Break Bag" which are pre-made bags to have during school breaks— a small way to addresses students' needs.
Additionally, The NTFB mobile pantry at UNT Dallas continue through the end of the year every third Friday of the month with the next taking place on May 19.
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