GaelPantry Opens

Mission and Ministry Director Karin McClelland (far left) in the pantry with Leora Mosman ’18 (center), and staff member Audrey Freeman.Last Wednesday, about 120 members of the Saint Mary’s community, including students, President James Donahue, the Christian Brothers, and members of CILSA and the Mission and Ministry Center (MMC) gathered to celebrate the opening of the GaelPantry, an on-campus food pantry for students struggling to afford food in the face of high college costs. Many colleges nationwide have recently opened food pantries on campus. As a Lasallian, Catholic college, Saint Mary’s strives for its policies and resources to reflect the teachings and practices of Jean Baptiste de La Salle.

“[Jean-Baptiste] de La Salle was characterized as responsive to the needs of his peers back in the day,” Donahue said. The GaelPantry is “an expression of this institution, [that] we listen.” It is a response to the realities faced by many students, and it gives those who face hunger “a place to be nourished.”

“La Salle’s approach to education and running his schools was to level the playing field,” said Mission and Ministry Director Karin McClelland. “When the children brought their lunches to school, some had more food than others,” said Brother Michael Avila, an early advocate for the GaelPantry. “He would take all the food together and spread it [equally].”

The GaelPantry is a result of the ever growing problem of food insecurity that plagues our colleges and universities. “The stories of students who struggle just to eat every day, astounded and humbled me,” said Leora Mosman ’18, the student orchestrator of the GaelPantry. As tuition costs rise, students are finding it increasingly difficult to save for tuition and, at the same time, pay for a meal plan or groceries that sustain a healthy diet. The original idea for GaelPantry stems from Economic Realities, a student-led forum in May 2014 that addressed the financial struggles many Saint Mary’s students were facing and continue to face today.

Many other colleges are also addressing the issue of food insecurity. “There are 312 colleges in the country with a food pantry. They are not all private colleges. Actually, public institutions [creating a food bank] are on the rise,” added McCelland. In 2014, students at UC Berkeley opened a food pantry for food-insecure students. This pantry was opened partially in response to a UC undergraduate survey which, among other things, concluded that 47 percent of students within the University of California system skipped a meal at least once in order to save money within the 2011-12 school year. In addition, Saint Mary’s is now a member of the College and University Food Bank Alliance, an organization focusing on alleviating food insecurity, hunger, and poverty among college and university students in the United States.

The Gael Pantry is fully operated by Saint Mary’s student volunteers and works using a point system. Each Saint Mary’s student gets eight points per week to use on pantry goods. Individual items are given point values based on their market price (i.e. a bag of rice is worth three points, while a cup of noodles is worth one point). Right now, the pantry only holds nonperishable goods such as beans, canned fruit, etc. However, Sodexo has pledged to donate a refrigerator to hold perishable goods such as eggs. It is the GaelPantry’s goal to eventually provide students with perishable goods in the future.

The eight-point threshold is not meant to be a steadfast limit, according to Nick Van Santen, assistant director of student formation and immersions. He said, “The spirit of the law overrides the letter of the law. If a student is truly desperate in desperate need we’re not going to deny them.” Someone requesting food does not need to disclose their financial situation, however, the pantry is meant for students struggling with food insecurity. “We don’t want this to become the replacement [to a] Safeway run,” said Chris Jones, professor of mathematics and an early advocate for the GaelPantry.

De La Salle made sure his poorer students could eat and be nourished. In the same way, the GaelPantry provides nourishment to those who are food insecure at Saint Mary’s.

The Gael Pantry is open Tuesday 11:30 a.m.–2 p.m., Wednesday 1 p.m.–2:30 p.m., Thursday 10:30 a.m.–1:30 p.m., and by appointment.

Students in need of food can also apply for the Gael Flex scholarship which would add $100 in Gael Flex dollars to their account. More information, as well as other food-related resources is available here.

If you are interested in volunteering or donating food, contact