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Common Goods combats hunger in WSU campus community

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Food insecurity refers to people who skip meals and/or do not receive proper nutrition because they are unable to afford it. Food insecurity on college campuses is a major issue and has b een for some time, yet is often left in the dark. Some attribute this to the stigmatization often associated with this type of need, and many do not realize just how big the problem is.

In a study published in “The Chronicle of Higher Education,” food insecurity is said to affect anywhere from 14 percent to 59 percent of public university students.

It was only recently that this issue broke out of the depths at Westfield State University, and members of the campus community took up arms against hunger and food insecurity.

On Monday, March 21, 2016, President of Westfield State University Ramon S. Torrecilha announced the grand opening of Common Goods at Westfield State.

(Photo taken by Amy MacDonald)

 

In its essence, Common Goods is a food pantry. It is an available resource for all members of the Westfield State community, especially those who are suffering from hunger or struggling to make ends meet. The mission of Common Goods is to alleviate the burdens of food insecurity and hunger for the WSU community by providing a welcoming location that is friendly, private, and discrete.

In addition to its non-perishable food supply, Common Goods also offers basic necessities like toilet paper, bar soap, hand soap, body wash, deodorant, toothpaste, dental floss, tampons, etc. Having an assortment of these sorts of items in its supply is what makes Common Goods more than just a traditional food pantry. In fact, the idea of offering more than just food is what led Celeste Donovan to decide on the name Common Goods at Westfield State; since “food pantry” is not directly in the title, Celeste feels as though Common Goods is not bounded in offering only food to those who might make use of the resource. She says she doesn’t know exactly what Common Goods will need to be stocked with in years to come.

“We have some ideas about how we’d like to see Common Goods grow and evolve in the future,” says Celeste, “but our true long-term vision is to be responsive to the needs and desires that the Westfield State community shares with us.”

Celeste and the other volunteers actively request feedback from those who visit Common Goods regarding items or products for which they have greater need. The members of Common Goods measure this information using what they refer to as an “Each Visit Check-In Form.” On this small, half-page document, the visitor fills out their name, time of visit, whether they might utilize Common Goods over the summer, their top food item/basic necessity preference, and what they wish was offered that is not currently in stock.

In addition to the Check-In form, the volunteers at Common Goods also ask that a visitor fill out an “Intake Form” once per academic year. This form specifies that the visitor is only requested to include “as much information as [they] feel able and comfortable.” This form requests for the visitor’s name; email; phone number; affiliation with the University (whether they are student—part-time, full-time, or graduate—faculty, or staff); the number or people for whom the visitor is using Common Goods; and how often the visitor’s food supply has been inadequate while at WSU. This form does not ask for any identification information or any record of income or salary.

“Common Goods is here for anyone in the Westfield State community who is struggling to purchase adequate amounts of food for themselves or for their family,” says Celeste. “Our door is open to anyone who could benefit from some food and personal care items as they attend college and try to make ends meet.”

(Photo taken by Nicholas Sarnelli)
Common Goods offers more than just food.
Above is their Basic Necessities section,
in which they provide items like toilet paper, soap,
shampoo, deodorant, toothpaste, etc.

 

Common Goods is housed on the second floor of the Second Congregational Church. The church itself is located at 487 Western Ave., just next to the Commuter Parking Lot. To enter, though, one must use the door on the far right of the church. To do so, one would cross in front of the church—passed the main entrance and beyond the bell sequentially—and proceed to the opposite wing. There is a ramp that leads to a single door, next to which there is a sign for Common Goods. Once inside, the stairs leading to the second floor are immediately to the left. There are more signs directing one up the stairs. Once one reaches the second landing, Common Goods lies behind the first door on the right.

Unfortunately, there is no elevator in the church, so someone who cannot use the stairs would be unable to access the pantry directly; however, if they contact commongoods@westfield.ma.edu, the staff can and will make accommodations to deliver goods to this person—they need only to reach out and make these arrangements.

Although the pantry is housed in a catholic church, no religious affiliation is required to utilize this resource. The pantry is open Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; however, their hours may be subject to change, so it is best to check their website before a visit: westfield.ma.edu/commongoods.

There are multiple ways to make a donation to Common Goods, one of which is to utilize any of the dark blue donation bins to put in donated items, which are placed throughout the campus. One can find these donation bins in the following locations: Horace Mann Center (main lobby), Wilson Hall (Commuter Café), Parenzo Hall (near the TRiO office), Ely Campus Center (Campus Center Service Window and Diversity/Inclusion Offices), and the Albert & Amelia Ferst Interfaith Center (immediately in the entrance).

Common Goods strives to provide options that are low in sodium and sugar, and high in protein and nutrients.

Some of the items the pantry requests are the following: proteins (canned tuna/chicken, beef/turkey jerky, canned chili, canned beans, peanut butter, varieties of nuts); vegetables (canned vegetables, low-sodium soups, pasta sauce); fruits (canned fruits, raisins, dried fruits, applesauce, jelly/jam); starches (rice, pasta, instant potatoes, macaroni and cheese, canned pasta); breakfast (cereal, oatmeal, tea bags, coffee); pantry items (condiments, oils, can openers, storage bags, plastic wrap and aluminum foil, eating utensils, paper products); basic necessities (soap, toilet paper, shampoo/conditioner, toothpaste/toothbrushes, lotion, deodorant, feminine hygiene products, laundry detergent/dryer sheets); and of course, assorted snacks are always welcome.

These are the products that are estimated to have the greatest need, but any and all donations are welcome.

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