The SHOP works with community partners to see large donations of necessary goods

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The SHOP, which stands for Students Helping Other Profs, is Rowan University’s on-campus food pantry and resource center available to students. It is located in the Rowan Boulevard Apartments, soon moving to The International House, and is open to all students with a Rowan ID. 

In recent years, food pantries have become common across college campuses. A few other New Jersey colleges with food pantries include The College of New Jersey, Stockton University, Rider University, and Rutgers across all three campuses.

This is in response to high levels of food insecurity among college students. The USDA defines several characteristics for varying levels of food insecurity, but broadly, food insecurity is an individual or household’s inability to access or afford enough food. 

The latest statistic out of the National Center on Safe Supportive Learning Environments, from August 2023, states that one in three college students experiences food insecurity. One broadly cited 2019 study from Advances in Nutrition, found that on average about 41% of college students in America experience food insecurity. 

In New Jersey, student food insecurity is about equal to the national average for college students across the country. In 2019, Rutgers released a report stating that 36.9% of their students are food insecure. As of 2022, Montclair State University reported that 41.4% of its students are food insecure. 

In November of 2022, Rowan University held a town hall to discuss its own issues surrounding food insecurity. For several years, faculty have been analyzing hunger on Rowan’s campuses with the SHOC or Student Hunger On Campus survey. The 2022 result showed that 43.5% of undergraduate students at Rowan are food insecure. 

Rowan’s first-generation college students, Black students, Hispanic students, and students with mental illness were significantly more likely to be food insecure, the study found.

Despite the SHOC study demonstrating that nearly half of Rowan’s student body could benefit from the resources at The SHOP, according to Dr. Andrew Perrone, many students are hesitant to visit. 

“So many students, if you talk to them about The SHOP, they know about it, they understand its value and how it can support students. But, they also don’t necessarily see it as something for them, because most everyone always pictures someone who needs it more than them. And it’s like ‘Oh no, it would help me but someone else needs it more, let them have it,’” Perrone said.

However, according to Perrone, while this common concern is thoughtful, it is unnecessary as The SHOP has enough resources to support every student who could benefit.

“We’ve got plenty, that person you’re thinking of who’s in more need than you, we’ll help them. But we can help you too. There’s enough there and we have enough of a resource that if you believe this could support you, then come in. It’s not only there for people who are in direst of crises, we want to support everybody who feels like this could support them,” Perrone said. 

The SHOP receives donations from numerous sources, many of which have retail rescue programs that allow The SHOP to collect from local groceries including Acme, Shoprite, and Heritages. The Food Bank of South Jersey, Philabundance, and the South Jersey Dream Center are also large and frequent sources of donations. These donations are also supplemented by donations collected through food drives and from around campus.

“The two giant food banks in the area are The Food Bank of South Jersey and Philabundance,” said SHOP coordinator Alex Kerr. “Food Bank of South Jersey delivers these huge 2,000-pound orders like the one we’re going to get next Thursday. Philabundance we order from in small weekly quantities.”

According to Kerr, The SHOP receives donations from ShopRite every Tuesday, donations from 2 ACME stores every Thursday, once a month they get a large donation from The Food Bank of South Jersey, and then one to two times per month they receive sizable donations from Philabundance. The SHOP receives at least 3 deliveries a week.

The Food Bank of South Jersey and The South Jersey Dream Center deliver donations directly to The SHOP. However, for retail rescue donations, Perrone and Kerr drive to pick them up on their own.

Once they’ve picked up the food, they need to weigh it by category and report the weight of each donation to the organization coordinating the retail rescue. This is so that stores cannot falsify the amount of their donation.

On April 11, The SHOP received 188 lbs from one ACME location and 679 from another. Though Kerr, who enters the numbers for the reports submitted to The Food Bank of South Jersey, said that some days they can get as much as 1,000 lbs of food from just one location. 

“693 lbs just from one store on March 28. Which is a lot of food. A lot more food than you think, and when Food Bank [of South Jersey] comes in, in order for them to do a delivery, it has to weigh at least 2,000 lbs, which is a ton of food. Literally, a ton of food,” Kerr said.

Kerr noted that while the donation weights are telling, sometimes they are skewed by heavier things like sodas, or lighter things like bread and pastries.

The SHOP does have some say in the items they receive.

“We have a choice in terms of what they [Philabundance] have. There’s an online ordering portal, where you can see ‘this is what we have available’ and then you order what you want from that,” Perrone said, regarding some of the ordering process. 

With The SHOP expanding its resources to Camden’s campus, there is room to grow. 

“We have the ability to expand donations. We can pick up additional ShopRite stores if we want to, we’ve only been doing the one thus far but we could pick up more if we wanted to,” Perrone said. “We didn’t sign onto those because we didn’t feel like we had the capacity.”

They plan to begin accepting more donations as they continue their growth. They are also getting more shelves, refrigerators, and freezers.

“It’s amazing how much food is out there and how much we can get in the way of donations from these community partners and things. It’s to the point that we get offers that we have to decline because we don’t have the capacity for it,” Perrone said.

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