Trinity Establishes Virtual Food Pantry and Reusable Clothing Closet
Cross-campus partnerships provide students with resources for essential needs
Monday, March 8, 2021
spinach salad with sliced cucumbers, shredded carrots, and honey mustard dressing in a white bowl on a red table

When a student comes to campus, they don’t just need their textbooks and cool posters. Often basic necessities such as food, shelter, clothing, and technology are overlooked because they’re readily available on campus—until they’re not. In the face of emergencies, some students may struggle to get even the most basic of human needs. 

“Life doesn’t stop when you come to school,” says Trinity Chaplain Alex Serna-Wallander ’08, ’09. “There are these unexpected moments, these unforeseen realities that can’t be planned for, and to have a way for us as a university— a community and a family—to be able to come alongside and support students in those moments is a testament to caring for them holistically and not just academically.”

Reverend Judd Student Emergency Fund

The Raymond Judd Student Emergency Fund, established in 2004 by a Trinity alumnus in honor of former university chaplain Raymond Judd ’56, has been used to help bridge the gap for students facing unexpected financial emergencies. The Judd Fund helps students afford food and other necessities, such as unexpected medical care, prescriptions, or emergency plane tickets home. 

When Tigers were sent home in March of 2020 and had to transition to remote learning, the Judd Fund fund was instrumental in helping students adjust to the new normal. When students live on campus, they are provided with guaranteed access to food, housing, technology, and assistance, but that may not be the case for students when they are scattered across the globe. The Judd Fund helped bridge the gap for students struggling to meet basic needs, including hot spots, laptops, money for food, short term housing assistance, and more. Since March 2020, the Judd Fund has distributed more than $160,000 to more than 380 students.

Nourish

The Judd Fund also provided seed funding for a recent food accessibility initiative on campus—a virtual food pantry. Named Nourish, the pantry operates through the Dean of Students Office and the Chapel. 

Last November, Natalia Gonzalez ’22 and Carlotta de Bellis ’20 from Trinity’s student organization EcoHabits reached out to the Dean of Students Office hoping to distribute a food insecurity survey to gauge student needs and demonstrate the potential benefits of a campus food pantry. The response they received from the Dean of Students Office was even more than they hoped for. 

Gonzalez and de Bellis quickly learned that Dean of Students David Tuttle and Serna-Wallander had already been examining the potential benefits of a food pantry and how best to tackle that task when classes went virtual in the spring of 2020. The project had been halted with the COVID-19 campus shutdown, but with the renewed momentum brought by the survey request, Tuttle told EcoHabits they could put together a virtual food pantry by the time that students would return for Spring 2021. “I feel like these things can drag on for months if you don't just attack them and work out the details,” Tuttle says. “We aggressively pursued it from there, and then made it happen.”

Students who request funding receive either H-E-B gift cards or direct deposit into their bank accounts. Unlike campus food pantries that mainly stock nonperishables, the unique virtual format of Nourish allows students to access fresh food at their local grocery stores, such as the H-E-B less than a mile away from Trinity. 

At the most recent count, Nourish has received 35 student requests and distributed $2,450 in donations. 

Following the food pantry, Tuttle, Serna-Wallender, and a team from the Tiger Card Office also created the new Care and Share Meal Swipe Pilot Program, where students can donate one of their meal swipes to their peers. This initiative came out of conversations with Charles Robles, the Food Service Director with Aramark, the campus’s food provider. 

Both the food pantry and meal swipe sharing program were cross-campus efforts, Tuttle says, including people from EcoHabits, Residential Life, the Trinity University Volunteer Action Community (TUVAC), Alumni Relations and Development, the Tiger Card Office, the Dean of Students Office, and the chapel. 

ReWear

The ReWear Clothing Closet stocks both professional and casual clothing for students.

Another major project headed by both the Dean of Students Office and EcoHabits aims to address another basic necessity—clothing. The new ReWear closet addresses both an economic and accessibility issue on campus by providing sustainable clothing options for students. Housed in the Coates Student Center, EcoHabits and the Dean of Students Office have converted the space into a clothing closet where students can thrift through donations given by faculty, staff, and other students. 

For EcoHabits, the ReWear closet is about recycling and mitigating the negative implications of fast fashion, where clothing is produced cheaply and quickly and disposed of just as fast. “We can't prevent people from buying nice dresses—however, we can prevent them from throwing them away. The goal was to have a place where people can just deposit the clothes they no longer want to wear and pick up something new,” Gonzalez says. 

The ReWear Closet emphasizes EcoHabits’s core mission: to instill environmental consciousness in the minds of everyone in the Trinity community. And to Gonzalez, part of being an eco-conscious person is thinking about how your decisions are going to impact the environment in the long run, such as considering how long it actually takes for cotton clothing to degrade in landfills. For Student Life, being able to provide clothing for low socio-economic students is the driving factor in creating the venture with Eco-Habits. 

But all of these initiatives come back to what it’s always been about—the students. “For someone to be the best they can be in the classroom, we have to think about the hierarchy of needs outside the classroom,” Serna-Wallender says. “The last year with people living all over the place has exposed or increased the needs students are facing as they try to navigate school on top of a global pandemic. If the basic necessities of life aren’t cared for, we can’t expect students to persist in the classroom and be successful in the larger mission of why they are here at Trinity.”
 

For more information about Nourish, check out the food pantry’s website. You can donate to Nourish online.

To learn more about EcoHabits, check out their instagram @ecohabits_tu or take a look at their website

Learn more about the Judd Fund or make a gift at gotu.us/juddfund

To donate clothes to ReWear, visit the ReWear Clothing Closet in the Tiger’s Den in Coates Student Center anytime the Center is open. You can make a gift to the closet online.

Sydney Rhodes '23 helps tell Trinity's story as a writing intern for Strategic Communications and Marketing.

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