Food insecurity isn’t something that only happens in other places to other people. It often happens close to home — in communities where we live and work — including in college communities across the country.
To serve this need, Mitchell College established the Mariner Market, an on-campus food pantry for students. The College increased the capacity of the market recently by joining the Gemma E. Moran United Way/Labor Food Center network in Southeastern Connecticut to serve students experiencing food insecurity. Mariner Market is located in The Cove student center behind Michael’s Dairy on Montauk Avenue.
According to Dr. Alicia Martinez, dean of student experience and belonging and chief student affairs officer, the issue of food insecurity among students came to the attention of faculty and staff members last year.
“During the Fall 2022 semester, I received a couple of emails from faculty and staff regarding students who were struggling with food insecurity. Utilizing different resources, we were able to help each of these students, but it brought up the question: how many other students who are struggling have not opened up to a Mitchell staff member? The question became even more prominent after reviewing results from the Healthy Minds Survey, which is part of our JED [mental health] program implementation. The survey showed 30% of respondents had food insecurity concerns and 15% had unstable housing concerns. If we wanted our students to be successful and be able to focus on academics, we knew something needed to be done and the idea of a pantry on campus developed.”
Professor Kevin Booker was one of the Mitchell community members who contacted Dr. Martinez on behalf of the students.
“We had a conversation about possibly starting a food pantry,” Martinez said. “Kevin reached out to some of his local connections and was able to have a professional colleague come to campus to share some thoughts about how to go about starting a pantry. Kevin also visited other institutions with pantries on campus to identify some best practices, and he helped us acquire some of the first donations offered through the pantry. We launched a pilot program late spring and over the summer to see if students would utilize the pantry, and they did.”
Mitchell College then applied to partner with the Gemma E. Moran United Way/Labor Food Center as a partner agency and received approval on June 6, 2023.
Martinez said the students voted on the name of the pantry and Student Affairs Fellow Luis Ramirez ’22 created the logo design for the Mariner Market.
Antaya Lee, director of student engagement and orientation, said that students can visit the market once a week
“The inventory of the Mariner Market varies,” she said, “but there are usually a variety of snacks, easily microwavable meals, like soups and mac and cheese, sodas, sports drinks, and seltzers. The market was also able to participate in a non-food giveaway with the United Way and received school supplies, toiletries, and cleaning supplies.”
She added, “We can ‘shop’ with the Gemma Moran United Way food center weekly to get items to supply the Mariner Market. We can also accept outside donations if they meet the requirements we have to maintain in terms of expiration dates, etc.”
Mariner Market is currently seeking donations of reusable shopping bags. Donations can be dropped off at The Cove student center during regular business hours, or arrange a time by emailing Antaya Lee, director of student engagement and orientation, at email@example.com or Rachel Ricciuti, student affairs fellow, at firstname.lastname@example.org.