Free mobile pantry fights food insecurity

During the coronavirus pandemic, the University of Delaware’s Student Diversity and Inclusion (SDI) program began its mission to support UD students and community members who are facing food insecurity.

The US Department of Agriculture defines food insecurity as “the limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe food, or the limited or uncertain ability to acquire acceptable food in a socially acceptable manner.” In March 2021, the Hope Center for College, Community and Justice at Temple University released its #RealCollege survey, which found that of 86,000 national respondents, 45% responded that they had been food insecure in the past 30 days.

“It’s important to remove as many barriers as possible so people have access to food,” said Rachel Garcia, interim director of Student Diversity and Inclusion. “We know students experience these insecurities, and we want to make sure we’re addressing students’ needs so they feel validated and can thrive at UD.”

In response to these needs, the “Mobile Pantry” initiative was launched. A few times each semester, with donations from the Food Bank of Delaware, SDI sets up multiple stations in parking lot 19 to offer free items to students, faculty, and staff.

Garcia said the items offered vary based on availability, but there are always shelf-stable, fresh, dairy and various chilled and frozen selections, as well as personal products on a first-come, first-served basis.

While the pantry was previously advertised as a drive-through event, Taurence Chisholm, SDI program coordinator, said walkers and cyclists are also welcome to grab and go.

“If they come with a car, the volunteers pack their car with the amount of food allotted to each household by the Food Bank of Delaware,” Chisholm said. He added that participants “walk or bike will be given a bag for the food they want to take with them.”

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Chisholm said feedback from the mobile pantry has been positive so far and that SDI has improved the pantry to make it more accessible to students – like providing walkers and cyclists with reusable bags. But the biggest goal is to raise awareness in the UD community and reach those who need it most.

“Students who came were very grateful for the variety of articles they were able to find, but we want to increase the number of students who know about this program,” Chisholm said. “We have found that many students have not yet realized that the mobile pantry is something for them or is part of a university initiative.”

SDI offers recipes on its Instagram account for students to use to prepare meals using the items available in this pantry. Additionally, SDI seeks to expand pantry goals by developing programs to address food insecurity at an individual level.

“We plan programs like cooking prep events in partnership with UD Behavioral Health and Nutrition, where students will learn how to cook inexpensive and delicious meals that are simple enough to make in a dorm kitchen,” said Chisholm. “Programs designed to teach students how to shop for groceries, where to find culturally relevant ingredients, and how to substitute what is available on campus are just a few of the topics for future events.”

As in the coming weeks and months, SDI will continue to offer additional events and resources to help students in need. Currently, the Clothing Coop in Room 301 of the Perkins Student Center is an all-gender workwear closet that provides free workwear to UD students.

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“We recognize that UD students, as well as staff and faculty, may face financial uncertainty, either temporarily or permanently, and that we must respond,” Garcia said. “A mobile pantry is only part of the response, but it also helps demonstrate our commitment to the broader Newark community.”

The next mobile pantry will be at Lot 19 (65 N. College Avenue) on Wednesday, March 1 from 11 am to 1 pm. If you wish to attend, bring your UD ID or valid driver’s license or Delaware State ID. Reusable bags are provided for those without a car, but bringing your own bags is recommended. If you would like to volunteer to help distribute articles, register through SignUpGenius.

For more information on upcoming Mobile Food Pantry events, visit and follow @udstudentdiversity on Instagram.