The Tarleton State University Purple Pantry helped students facing food insecurity with more than 2,000 visits in the first five months of 2021.
A fall 2019 survey of nearly 167,000 students nationwide by Temple University’s Hope Center for College Community and Justice found that 39 percent of students at two- and four-year schools in the U.S. had experienced food insecurity in the previous 30 days.
The Purple Pantry at Tarleton, in operation since 2015, assists students battling that insecurity. Volunteers distributed more than 13,000 food-based resources in the fall 2020 semester.
Students are referred through TexConnect, a year-old hub that addresses food, parenting and housing issues; academic materials and transportation; physical, emotional, financial and cultural well-being; and DREAMers resources.
“The Division of Student Affairs’ Purple Pantry and TexConnect initiatives have provided an important safety net for our students experiencing both one-time and recurring gaps in resources,” said Dr. Lora Helvie-Mason, Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs at Tarleton.
“Students awaiting a paycheck, navigating financial strain due to the pandemic, or facing unanticipated situations can swipe into the pantry as often as they may need. Our goal continues to be on the holistic student. We want our Tarleton Texans to know that we are here for them during unpredictable moments.”
The Stephenville campus Purple Pantry, originally the Tarleton Food Pantry, expanded to fresh, frozen and refrigerated products, added academic materials and increased hygiene supplies in summer 2020. A year later the Fort Worth Purple Pantry expanded locations and transformed its food offerings from primarily microwave meals to mirror those in Stephenville.
With the help of volunteers, donors and grants, both sites have undergone substantial change in an effort to meet ever-growing needs.
“The Purple Pantry exists because of dedicated donors who support our students through difficult times,” Dr. Helvie-Mason said. “Donors have brought new ideas, products and an increased depth and breadth to our campus pantry.”
In its first five years the pantry averaged about 600 entries per term. In fall 2020 that number jumped to 1,796 entries. Spring 2021 saw the number climb again to 2,017 entries.
“Without the integral and consistent support of our donors we would not be able to meet the students’ increased needs in recent semesters. Nearly 8,000 items are donated to the Purple Pantries in Stephenville and Fort Worth each semester. In addition, donor dollars support essential pantry processes such as our inventory management, our supplies and equipment.”