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Pitchfork Pantry remains open after uncertainty

Pitchfork Pantry was able to work with ASU to remain open after announcing it would permanently close

Rebecca Bender at the Downtown Pitchfork Pantry

Rebecca Bender, student anti-hunger coalition executive director, stands with the canned goods available at the Downtown location of Pitchfork Pantry on Oct. 2, 2017.

ASU’s Pitchfork Pantry announced that it would be closing its doors permanently in April when the University said the student-run organization could no longer operate. 

However, after working with the University, the pantry still operates on the downtown Phoenix and Tempe campuses, and looks to expand further.

Ivory Thornton, a pantry volunteer and sophomore in social work said she first learned about the pantry over the summer when she saw volunteers boxing up donations under the assumption the organization would be closing its doors.

"You could tell the disappointment just because they had worked so hard," Thornton said, "They know that (food insecurity is) really a problem on college campuses."

Read more: Despite earning two pitchfork awards, Pitchfork Pantry will permanently close at the end of semester

Rebecca Bender, executive director of the Student Anti-Hunger Coalition, which runs the pantry, said that when it was announced that the pantry would be closing, there had been little communication from the University, leaving students and directors unsure of the organization's future.

But Bender, a senior in dietetics and food systems sustainability, said the University eventually reached out to Pitchfork Pantry, asking to work at keeping it open.

"Out of the blue they were like, 'Hey we want to meet with you guys and we want to work with you to figure out how we can really get this pantry up and running,'" Bender said.

Bender said that one of the concerns that the University expressed was that the pantry was only a temporary solution. 

She said the University wanted to help the Student Anti-Hunger Coalition create programs that would run in conjunction with the pantry to connect students with financial aid and health services.

"Hunger isn’t the problem, there’s usually a root cause and hunger (is the result)," Bender said. 

Austin Guerrero, a graphic information technology senior, said the pantry should provide information and resources that students can find on and off-campus in order to avoid instances where a student is experiencing food insecurity.

"If people are truly struggling, more resources that could potentially help them is always a good thing," Guerrero said. 

A study conducted by Pitchfork Pantry co-founder and assistant professor of nutrition Meg Bruening showed that 32 percent of the ASU freshmen surveyed said they had experienced food insecurity in the month prior to the study. 

Thornton said that because food is a basic need, she never realized so many ASU students struggled to get food.

"It’s definitely given me a sense of being humble, being grateful for what I have," Thornton said.

Both locations of Pitchfork Pantry are opened this semester, operating Tuesdays and Thursdays on the downtown Phoenix campus and Wednesdays on the Tempe campus. 

Bender said the pantry is looking to expand to locations on other campuses.

"We have a professor that reached out to us about a group that’s interested in starting a Pitchfork Pantry on the West campus," she said.

Currently, the pantry can only serve canned goods at the Tempe and downtown Phoenix locations, but Bender said the pantry is working on meeting food codes that would allow it to serve produce and perishable food.

"We have funding to help us get refrigerators," Bender said, "As soon as we can figure all the legal details we’re hopefully going to start doing more." 

Reach the reporter at or follow @jennaleeneff on Twitter. 

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