March 4, 2015

Food pantry to address student homelessness

A storage closet in Sub I was converted into a Pop Up Pantry to help homeless and financially unstable students.  The closet houses supplies such as non-perishable food, hygiene items, coats and blankets.

The Pop Up Pantry was started by graduate student Yara Mowafy, who has been advocating for the homeless and financially insecure by addressing several different needs.

“As November 2013, we had the Student Meal Assistance Fund.  So that provides meal vouchers to students who seek them from the Office of Student Support.  After that, I began doing research; it is Institutional Review Board approved research.  So I’m looking to identify the prevalence and nature of homelessness and hunger at George Mason University,” Mowafy said.

Though the research is still ongoing, Mowafy said results should be released by the end of this semester.

“The research has shown that there is a need for some sort of support or some sort of services that we’re not offering or not providing for students.  And out of that, we started the Pantry,” Mowafy said.

According to Mowafy, since the pantry began in December 2014, it has been used almost weekly by students in need.  Donations have been made by several Mason offices, including University Life and New Century College.

“We always have food coming in, which is good because it’s always flowing out, and that also just proves to us that there is a need because the food is not just sitting there.  There was a lot more stuff in that room three weeks ago, but that it’s cut in half is showing us that people are really seeking this kind of resource,” Mowafy said.

According to Michael Galvin, Director of Technology Integration and Mowafy’s research partner, the hope is that the research findings will give Mason incentives to provide a larger space for the pantry.

By:  Reem Nadeem, Print News Editor, GMUFOURTHESTATE.COM