By Brenden Hill and Soffia Hernandez
The Kangaroo Pantry now serves twice as many students as it did prior to coronavirus, down from serving quadruple its usual amount when the pandemic began in March. The pantry, which has been operating since 2015, serves UMKC students, faculty and staff who need food assistance.
“We had a lot of issues with COVID,” one pantry visitor told UMKC Today. “A lot of unexpected expenses came up as a result. The Kangaroo Pantry has helped me overcome that.”
On any given day, the pantry can expect a decent-sized pool of people, said Senior Program Manager Anthony Maly.
“It varies based on need and time of year, but the pantry could be serving around 10-20 individuals on an average day,” Maly said.
While the number of students the pantry serves has increased during the pandemic, donations have decreased at the same time. Office of Student Involvement Graduate Assistant Sam Weis said despite the lack of donations, the pantry is running smoothly due to funding from Harvesters, Kansas City’s primary food bank.
“We haven’t been actively trying to get donations because we’ve actually been pretty well-stocked due to the funding,” Weis said.
Harvesters works with another organization, Feeding America, to partner with manufacturers and even local organizations to receive donations. The donated groceries end up at different pantries and drives across the nation, like the Kangaroo Food Pantry.
To prepare for Roos in need, staff and volunteers at the Kangaroo Pantry routinely check the produce for its “best by” range and now take precautions to prevent the potential spread of coronavirus.
Currently, the pantry is primarily working on promoting itself so more students who need assistance know there is a place located near campus to help.
Coronavirus has affected students financially, including less scheduled work hours and decreased job opportunities, and has made some students food-insecure. The organization is working to fight these problems and end the stigma of getting groceries from a pantry.
Workers have begun promoting the pantry by posting flyers around campus and in the Johnson and Oak dormitories, places where students are required to purchase on-campus meal plans. The pantry’s services can be particularly helpful for students on a meal plan that provides a limited number of meals per week.
However, spreading the word has not been as easy during the pandemic.
“It’s a bit tricky given that we’re off campus,” Weis said. “Certainly, we can still operate, but if we were on campus, it would help significantly.”
The Kangaroo Food Pantry is open Tuesdays from 1:30-5:30 p.m., as well as Wednesdays and Thursdays from 1-5 p.m. It is located at 4825 Troost Avenue. A UMKC student, faculty or staff ID and number is required to use the pantry’s services.