Thursday, May 30, 2024

UTSA is creating new solutions to fight food insecurity, support student success

UTSA is creating new solutions to fight food insecurity, support student success

Spotlight on UTSA’s mission to make higher education accessible to every student who dreams of a college degree

AUGUST 17, 2023 — More than 47,000 UTSA students have benefited from free and nutritious food offered year-round by the Whataburger Resource Rooms, also known as the Roadrunner food pantries. Between January and June of this year, more than 10,000 students have already received help. 

“The pantries haven’t slowed down since they opened six years ago. We are still helping so many students with basic daily needs,” said Nikki Lee, senior associate director of the UTSA Student Union who supervises the Whataburger Resource Rooms. “We saw a tremendous spike during the pandemic, opening up to serve UTSA faculty and staff needing our resources and we continue to serve so many even beyond food.”

Stocked with a variety of foods items, toiletries, school supplies and more, the pantries remain a welcoming place of support for students in need. It is one of many services supporting UTSA’s commitment to combat food insecurity so students can focus on their educational goals and achieve success.

“The pantry is here to meet their needs and with these programs, we’re hoping to reach more students and provide access to food in a time of need.”

The Roadrunner community can go into the Whataburger Resource Room and volunteer stocking goods on shelves.

Meeting students where they are is inspiring new programs at the pantries that will be piloted this fall and in spring 2024 to gauge student interest.

Lee said an Order Ahead program will start this semester. Similar to curbside ordering at grocery stores, students can order online and schedule a pick-up time for their items. A Grab & Go program targeting students who need to eat something as they go about their day is also planning to start in spring. Students can stop by a pantry for a quick snack and drink, free of charge, if they do not have money to eat that day.

“We have students who come once a week, some who stop by every day and then there are some who’ve come only once because that’s all they need,” Lee said. “The pantry is here to meet their needs and with these programs, we’re hoping to reach more students and provide access to food in a time of need.”

Lee added: “We also have more wonderful initiatives such as the Meal Share Program from Campus Services and the Grad Gown Lending Program, that students can find on our website for additional help.”

Branded as the Whataburger Resource Room, UTSA has Roadrunner Pantries on both the Main and Downtown campuses. The Main Campus pantry operates from noon to 5 p.m., Monday through Thursday and on Saturdays. The Downtown Campus operates from noon to 5 p.m., Monday through Thursday.

Any UTSA student, faculty or staff member with a valid UTSA ID can shop at the pantries, which are set up like a grocery store with necessities such as milk, bread, fresh fruit and non-perishable food items. The pantries also supply essential non-food items such as shampoo, toilet paper, and deodorant.

Hemangi Ahir, a graduate student from Panama, learned about the pantry from friends in the spring of 2022 and began shopping there weekly. By summertime, she became an avid supporter of the pantry and spent two and a half months working as a graduate assistant at the Main Campus pantry.

“As an international student beginning my career in the United States, I faced numerous expenses, including rent and out-of-state fees,” Ahir said. “To save money, I limited myself to one meal per day before I discovered the pantry. It proved to be a tremendous help. Access to produce and milk allowed me to save on grocery expenses, which was truly a blessing for many students like myself, as it significantly reduced my food insecurity concerns." 

⇒ Learn more about student resources at the UTSA’s Whataburger Resource Room| Roadrunner Pantry and how you can donate to the food panties towards their mission of feeding student success.

Ahir, who is pursuing a Master of Science in Information Technology (MSIT) degree with a focus on cybersecurity, said she remains a big supporter of the UTSA pantries and hopes other students are not shying away from getting help when they need it.

“It's crucial to remember that these services are here to support individuals during tough times,” she said. “Staff and volunteers are ready to offer support in a safe and non-judgmental space. Utilizing available resources can be a temporary solution to get back on one's feet, and there is strength in seeking help.”

Michelle Gaitan

UTSA Today is produced by University Strategic Communications,
the official news source
of The University of Texas at San Antonio.

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UTSA’s Mission

The University of Texas at San Antonio is dedicated to the advancement of knowledge through research and discovery, teaching and learning, community engagement and public service. As an institution of access and excellence, UTSA embraces multicultural traditions and serves as a center for intellectual and creative resources as well as a catalyst for socioeconomic development and the commercialization of intellectual property - for Texas, the nation and the world.

UTSA’s Vision

To be a premier public research university, providing access to educational excellence and preparing citizen leaders for the global environment.

UTSA’s Core Values

We encourage an environment of dialogue and discovery, where integrity, excellence, inclusiveness, respect, collaboration and innovation are fostered.

UTSA’S Destinations

UTSA is a proud Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) as designated by the U.S. Department of Education .

Our Commitment to Inclusivity

The University of Texas at San Antonio, a Hispanic Serving Institution situated in a global city that has been a crossroads of peoples and cultures for centuries, values diversity and inclusion in all aspects of university life. As an institution expressly founded to advance the education of Mexican Americans and other underserved communities, our university is committed to promoting access for all. UTSA, a premier public research university, fosters academic excellence through a community of dialogue, discovery and innovation that embraces the uniqueness of each voice.