Like many of the offerings that can be found at The Oakhurst Campus Food Pantry (OCFP), the volunteer program that debuted this past fall was born in response to community need.
Every semester, the pantry receives a handful of unique requests from across the University. Some of these requests come from individuals–primarily students–inquiring about additional resources such as how to access additional meal swipes. Frequently, requests come from USM departments or various student-led initiatives. We happily supply Oakhurst beverages at campus events, provide banana boxes for resource drives and even make classroom appearances to present on a range of food security-related topics. Although not every request can always be accommodated, the pantry is committed to creating sustainable solutions that are creative and community driven. The request for volunteer opportunities at the pantry was no different and this is what the community told us it needed:
- A selection of volunteer opportunities supporting general pantry efforts
- Accommodation for both individual and group volunteer experiences
- Accessible, one-time and/or recurring volunteer opportunities
- Flexible, accommodation for personal schedule needs (i.e: evening hours)
- A chance to learn about OCFP; desire to have education incorporated
- Meaningful engagement with the USM community
- Opportunities to give back
In September 2022, as the pantry honored the generous in-kind donation we had recently received from our neighbors at Oakhurst Dairy, we were also able to finally honor our community’s request for volunteer opportunities. The response from our community has been truly incredible and humbling to witness. Current volunteer opportunities and ways to support the pantry include:
- Flexible 2-3 hour shifts assisting with general front desk duties at the pantry including the patron check-out process, light upkeep as needed, and basic closing taks. The volunteer must be comfortable working independently; recurring shifts available upon request.
- Host a Targeted Food/Resource Drive on behalf of the pantry! Identify 1-3 non-perishable, high need pantry items to collect and donate (contact the pantry for a list of current needs). At this time, the pantry does not have the capacity to pick up donations. Banana boxes for donations can be provided upon request.
- Spread the word! There are so many formal and informal ways to help raise awareness of pantry resources on campus: hang up resource flyers after class or spend an hour tabling with pantry resources (talking points provided), share and engage with OCFP social media posts, tell your friends to tell their friends–you get the point.
If there is something you are interested in doing to support the pantry that hasn’t been mentioned, reach out! We welcome new ideas and suggestions.
I have been especially touched and pleasantly surprised by the various creative offerings we receive from the community. For example, this winter we received an email from a USM HR employee who belongs to an online knitting & crocheting group, asking if we would be interested in a donation of handmade winter accessories (hats, scarves, mittens). By the start of the spring semester, the pantry received its first installment of beautifully knit and crocheted winter items, including several small blankets that quickly found a home with our “upstairs neighbors” in the TRIO lounge at 102 Bedford St.
USM employee and longtime supporter of the pantry, Lucille Siegler, recently reached out hoping to donate various spices in bulk. Spices and seasonings are popular items at the pantry but bulk sizes are not always ideal, so Lucille offered to purchase a case of glass spice jars that could be filled and labeled as needed.
Someone else dropped off a donation of a dozen brand new socks, while another volunteered to pick up bakery day-olds from Panera and deliver them directly to the pantry on a weekly basis. Our community has grown to rely on these weekly bread offerings, assortment of bagels, and pastry treats (washed down by an Oakhurst milk, of course).
And it’s not just the USM community stepping up. This year, Martin’s Point Healthcare has chosen OCFP as a participating site for their upcoming “Day of Service”–an event geared toward providing employees direct opportunities to volunteer in the community. For this event, the pantry is asking Martin’s Point employees to help us create mini first aid kits to distribute at the pantry. To prepare, the pantry is actively seeking bulk donations of bandaids, antibiotic ointment, alcohol wipes, and other basic first aid items. Look for Banana boxes around campus or stop by the pantry in-person during our open hours to make a donation!