Suffolk CARES Pantry helps students during pandemic


Sarianna Quarne

The Suffolk CARES Pantry celebrated its first anniversary on Oct. 10, 2019. The pantry assists Suffolk students facing food insecurity

School may be out for the summer, but the Suffolk CARES Pantry continues to help students during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“There’s been a major restock of the pantry,” said Janelle Grady, assistant director of Student Outreach and Support. “Students are facing major financial trouble and have been relying on the program.” 

According to Feeding America, food insecurity in Eastern Massachusetts is expected to increase by 59% due to COVID-19. New estimates report that more than 658,000 people in the region will face food insecurity this year. This translates to one in eight people. Before the pandemic, one in every 13 people were reportedly food insecure by Feeding America. 

 Suffolk CARES has continuously been working to meet the needs of the student body in the safest way possible. In addition to providing food sources, the staff coordinates long-term resources so students have access to food once they leave Suffolk. 

The pantry works to connect students with Bridge Over Troubled Waters and SNAP benefits to help them get food in the future. But the pantry also works to provide students with current food sources for stability.

“We have a very organized system with socially distant pickups. We will continue to work and provide for the students,” said Amanda McGrath, director of Student Outreach and Support.

Suffolk CARES has created an inventory list that is updated with what resources are currently available to students. Students must meet with a case manager in order to look at the list. Anyone who emails or is referred to the office meets with Grady to discuss their needs. Pick up times between the pantry and students are scheduled for Tuesdays and Thursdays in a designated meeting location. All meet-ups require gloves, masks and social distancing as a precaution. 

The pantry opened in 2018, after the university saw that students were requesting help for getting food at a high rate. Suffolk alumnus Gene Lee, who graduated with an EMBA in 1996, contributed a cash donation through Darden, kicking off the program. Sodexo also partnered with the program, helping with training and inventory techniques which are needed for the pantry to continue.

“[The pantry] is a long-term solution for students to be academically successful on campus and for when it’s time to leave,” McGrath said. 

When the pantry first opened, students could take what they needed as long as they were able to give back. Grady then put new parameters in place, which included intake appointments, item limits and tips for healthy eating on a budget. 

Staff at Suffolk CARES have been working and planning behind the scenes, making sure all potential plans are prepared for next semester.

Although the pantry cannot get more workers at the moment, they still have help. Four volunteers from Suffolk’s residence life and housing departments, in addition to Grady and McGrath, are currently working to get food for students. 

Since the pantry has had more students asking for help, there are multiple ways people can look to donate. 

On the Suffolk website, the “give now” page offers a highlighted link that takes you to the Suffolk CARES donation site for recurring or one-time donations. The pantry also takes direct food donations though the Amazon Wish List that can be found on the Suffolk CARES web page.  

Members of the Suffolk community have been supporting Suffolk CARES. According to Grady, many have made direct drop-off stops when walking in or out of the pantry, which is also an option. 

“We will be sending consistent messages to students [about COVID-19 updates]. It’s all about making the best decision for the community,” said McGrath.