The Daily Gamecock

Gamecock Pantry provides emergency food kits to students, faculty, staff in need

USC's Gamecock Pantry has remained opened to provide emergency food kits to students, faculty and staff while campus is closed.

Even though regular operations have shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Gamecock Pantry prepared over 100 emergency food kits. There are three possible kits: traditional, vegetarian and vegan. Each is stocked with 10 items that include snacks, pasta, rice, vegetables and protein. 

Kits are available on request, with minimal contact pickup. Clients can make an appointment to pick up a kit by calling the Russell House Information Desk at 803-777-3196, Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. until 4 p.m.

The Gamecock Pantry was originally formed as a Student Government initiative. Megan Michener at the Leadership and Service Center advises the executive board and is the main staff member overseeing the pantry. 

“We have people who come weekly — we also have people who come one time and we never see them again,” Michener said. “We're really just there to serve anybody in their time of need if they're struggling with food insecurity.” 

Anyone with a valid CarolinaCard can access the pantry, which is usually located in McBride Quadrangle A when USC is operating normally. Each person is allowed to spend up to 15 points a week — most items, such as canned goods, are worth a point. During the first half of the spring semester, Gamecock Pantry recorded 700 visits. 

The Residence Hall Association (RHA) allocated $1,000 of its budget to help stock the Gamecock Pantry and make emergency food kits, according to RHA President Brandon Lynch. On March 18, they bought $800 worth of goods on the pantry’s wish list. The remaining $200 will be used if the pantry needs to be restocked again this semester. 

“[Panic buying] leaves a lot of people very vulnerable,” said Quin Mewborne, Gamecock Pantry's director of education and outreach and a third-year philosophy of neuroscience student. “It's really important to provide a resource for students and faculty and staff where they don't have to worry as much about food at the stores because they know that the pantry is always there to support them.” 

During spring break, 10 to 15 clients picked up emergency food kits. Since most students have left campus, Michener said numbers have “drastically decreased.”

However, while students have returned home, many of USC’s employees remain near campus. 

“We are still trying to serve our faculty and staff, especially those who are auxiliary workers, because a lot of them have either gotten drastic hour reductions or have lost their employment,” Michener said.

The "majority" of pantry clients are students, Michener said, but the clients who return on a regular basis are mainly faculty, staff and graduate students. Averrey Jencka, the pantry's marketing communications and media director, has focused on destigmatizing the connotation of a food pantry.

“It is a huge factor that keeps people silent and stops them from coming in for food,” Jencka, a third-year advertising and graphic design student, said in an email.

Gamecock Pantry is still asking for donations of Chef Boyardee meals, SpaghettiOs, ramen noodles, oatmeal and canned or packaged meats. Donations can be mailed to 1400 Greene St. Suite 210 or dropped off at Russell House, where a limited staff is working.