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One year later: a letter from the Paw Pantry

The Paw Pantry is Clemson’s first on-campus food, hygienic item and school supply pantry. It is located next to the space formerly known as Chili’s Too, now a “Union Classroom” on the fifth floor of the University Union. As of this weekend, we have been open and available to Clemson students for a year.
The Paw Pantry’s work is simple: provide an opportunity to distribute food and items necessary for daily life to Clemson students. We stand in solidarity with our student body and our campus community in the process of combatting food insecurity. Food insecurity exists when there is a limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods, or an uncertain ability to acquire food in socially acceptable ways. Food availability and accessibility among college students has been studied in recent years across the nation, with numbers reaching as high as 25 percent of student populations.
In the creation of the Pantry, we sought to foster a space on our campus where all students would feel welcome, regardless of background or current circumstances. Our volunteers, all students themselves, are trained about various offices and organizations available in the community outside of our walls in order to answer any questions about other resources which might be available to our clients.
The pantry is an imperfect solution to a systemic issue. The rising expenses associated with a university education leave many of our best and brightest students financially stunted, temporarily or in the long term. Student expenses do not stop at tuition alone; textbook prices, rent and meal plans are often expensive supplementary costs. While the term “broke college kid” seems almost like an endearing side effect of one’s university experience, the pantry sees the impacts of financial hardship on a deeper level. Whether our pantry neighbors are stopping in to provide for themselves on a once-a-semester or once-a-week basis, the pantry hopes to provide enough to alleviate stresses associated with not having a meal or being unable to wash one’s clothes due to lack of laundry detergent.
So, happy first birthday to the Paw Pantry and endless thanks to those who have breathed life into it in our first year. Thank you Student Affairs and Campus Activities and Events for granting us a space to operate. Thank you Kate and Whitney for working through legal jargon, determining best practices and endlessly supporting our efforts. To our social media supporters, partner agencies and general friends of the Pantry, thank you for directing students our way when they need us and thank you for being our loudest microphone.
Thank you to our donors for your insurmountable generosity. From Dr. Thomas and her English Department colleagues, to Parking Services, to Greek Organizations, to everyone who has anonymously dropped a bag on the lobby desk, from the bottoms of our hearts, thank you. You make it possible to provide for all types of needs experienced while at Clemson. To our volunteers, thank you for extra time spent organizing or carrying boxes or just hearing clients and other volunteers out. Thank you for being students that love other Clemson students enough to spend hours of your week being the hands and feet of the Paw Pantry.
And most importantly, to our clients, thank you for trusting us enough to check us out. Thank you for advocating for your own needs and for sharing your stories when it felt right. Thank you for telling your friends about the Pantry’s existence and thank you for being a part of this campus. Each of you is so valuable to this university and we are grateful that we have been able to work alongside you to make this possible.
In solidarity,

The Paw Pantry Board and Volunteer Captains

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