True Blue Pantry is having its grand opening on Feb. 9, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. This is a resource that will be open to anyone in the TU community who needs assistance. The pantry is located on the north end of LaFortune House across from the Reynolds Center at the corner of East Eighth and South Gary Avenue.
Due to COVID-19 procedures, those interested in accessing the True Blue Pantry must make an appointment, which can be done online. The application only needs to be filled out one time and should take less than five minutes. After, the individual can schedule their preferred pick-up times as needed.
According to Melissa Abdo, Program Coordinator at True Blue Neighbors, the pantry stocks a variety of foods: “People may come in and choose their items. Every week we have pasta, cereal, grains, canned fruits, vegetables and proteins. Fresh produce, dairy and bakery items are available as well.”
Abdo also added that they will sometimes have common toiletry items available, depending on the amount of supplies that they are donated. Donations are one way that the TU community can support this new resource.
Naomi Curtis, a student who works at the pantry, says that she has “been working on creating a database for the food pantry to help out with inventory and high demand items.” Curtis added, “we are planning a lot of fun programming events to keep an eye out for. We are also thinking of ways to end the stigma surrounding food insecurity and seeking out help.”
“We would love to partner with students to support the pantry with food drives or programming to increase awareness of this as a resource.” Abdo said that the top five items the True Blue Pantry needs right now are “canned soup, canned vegetables, canned fruit, boxed cereal and toiletries items.”
Anyone who is interested in donating items to the pantry can drop them off between 9 a.m to 5 p.m. on weekdays. A donation box will also be left outside of the pantry to collect donations outside of its hours of operation.
Many Americans are dealing with food insecurity, an issue that has been made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma, one in five Oklahomans (and 1 in 3 children) will face food insecurity during the pandemic. Currently, about 635,740 people face food insecurity in Oklahoma, according to Feeding America.
Curtis explained, “food insecurity in college campuses is way more prevalent than people think, especially with the rise of the proportion of non-traditional students — like people going back to school, commuters, working students, etc. The days where the majority of students were being supported by parents is not really the reality anymore. I think it’s important that the community supports students that need it — be it academically or with food assistance.”
Part of the True Blue Pantry’s mission is to “raise awareness about food security among college students and reduce any stigma or barriers around accessing the pantry,” according to Abdo.
Make an appointment at utulsa.edu/truebluepantry to access the food pantry.