Campus News

Pantry provides pocket-sized resources

Photo of racks of food in the pantry.

The UCM Pocket Pantry provides students with quick meals and hygiene products. | Courtesy of Rev. Tamika Nelson.

Located in suite 208 of the A.D. Bruce Religion Center, the United Campus Ministry Pocket Pantry aims to provide students with easy and free snacks and hygiene products.

The pantry is open to students, faculty and staff after officially opening in January 2023. Since its opening, the pantry has received around $15,000 in grants and seen nearly 900 students this year.

“What’s fascinating about the pantry is that you realize there’s so many different student stories,” said Reverend Tamika Nelson, Executive Director of the UCM of Greater Houston.

Through grants, donations and volunteers, the pantry is able to host a variety of materials for its shoppers. It can also run thanks to being sponsored by grants from Presbyterian Church USA, United Church of Christ and the Christian Church Disciples of Christ.

Available resources include quick snacks and meals such as protein shakes, ramen and soup, and personal hygiene products like deodorant, condoms and period products.

“We don’t want people to feel like they’re getting leftovers,” Nelson said. “We want to make it a pleasant experience and they feel like they’re getting quality products.”

Before students leave, they’re asked to fill out a form tallying which products they took so demand is being sufficiently met.

Before the pantry officially opened, cans of soup were available and Nelson noticed how frequently students would come back. After receiving a grant over winter break last year, the pantry was able to officially open.

“It was really eye opening for me,” Nelson said. “I did not know food insecurity was this serious, so now it is more than just the pocket pantry. It is really a basic need.”

Outside of the items provided by the pantry, hot coffee and breakfast snacks are prepared when the pantry is open for visitors to enjoy. Students can also use the area as a study space and individual counseling is occasionally provided.

Despite the pantry being part of UCM, Nelson stresses that students regardless of religion are invited to utilize the pantry and UCM’s other resources.

“It really is a labor of love,” Nelson said. “We’re here because our congregations want students to succeed. It’s not just about faith and study. It is really about the whole student.”

With no immediate plans to expand, Nelson hopes to see where the pantry goes and to continue adjusting it to students’ needs.

While currently closed for the semester, the pantry will be open to the UH community starting on Jan. 18 and each Thursday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., until the semester ends.

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