Bearcat Pantry provides hot meals to food-insecure students
Updated: Mar 11
Pictured: Food available to students at the Bearcat Pantry. Photo taken by Grace Shiffrin.
When the ice storm left many Willamette students facing food insecurity, students from the Bearcat Pantry coordinated a food court on campus. “We wanted to be able to provide free meals… a hot meal to alleviate stress,” said Miya Konishi (‘21), the [Bearcat Pantry] coordinator.
She and her co-coordinator Shione Mochizuki knew that students didn’t have power and would likely come to campus. “It was very last minute,” said Konishi: “And we had a huge help from volunteers as well. We were able to find a panini press from my friend, and then we used a waffle maker that she had. We had our food safety handler’s license, so we were like, we can just do this. We just have to get the word out.”
Konishi created a recipe that she jokingly called the ‘Bearcat Special’: a lot of chicken noodle soup, chickpeas, tomatoes and pasta, all seasoned and cooked in a Crock-Pot with red veggie broth.
Through word of mouth and social media, Konishi estimated 70 students received hot meals: “It was great because it did bring a sense of community in a time where it’s somewhat isolating. But I mean logistically everything went smoothly as it could have… generally the students were happy but you could tell students are certainly exhausted with everything going on.”
Konishi said that there is now the question of preparing the pantry for future crises: “I think it could potentially be a great option to develop the SOAR Center and develop the Pantry… but right now we haven’t made any plans because we’re still recuperating from the aftermath.” The Bearcat Pantry is in the SOAR Center on the third floor of the Putnam University Center (UC) and provides food and clothing that students have requested. In response to COVID-19, the Pantry shifted from an in-person “shopping experience” to a Google request Form where students may request items for pick-up from the Pantry.