At Northwestern, the mission behind Purple Pantry is simple.
“Food insecurity happens for a variety of reasons,” said Stacey Brown, director of dining. “We want to reduce that stigma.”
Purple Pantry is a campus resource for students who do not have reliable access to nutritious food options. Designed to be barrier-free, the pantry is open from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Thursday, and students do not need to make an appointment.
Brown and her dining team are working hard to reimagine Purple Pantry so that it can keep up with student participation, which has more than doubled since the start of this academic year.
“We’re offering some groceries, snacks, dietary staples and even personal care products,” Brown said. “Everybody shops for food a little differently, and we want to make sure Purple Pantry reflects that.”
Based on data collected by the Division of Student Affairs, third-year undergraduates and first-year international graduate students are the most frequent pantry users.
As Brown explained, third-year students are living off-campus for the first time and managing their own meals and living expenses. Many international graduate students at Northwestern don’t have access to resources like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
With the end of the SNAP emergency allotments in March of 2023, Brown and her team are preparing for another increase in participation.
Food insecurity can exist for a variety of personal and systemic reasons, she said. And understanding which populations use it the most helps Purple Pantry customize its offerings.
“We want to feed people,” Brown said. “We’re fortunate to have strong partnerships within Student Affairs, the Northwestern community and our food service partner, Compass, that enable us to get food into the hands of as many students as possible. We’re also thankful that people continue to drop off donations and support the pantry in so many ways.”
Austin Siegel is a writer in the Division of Student Affairs.