UConn’s Undergraduate Student Government (USG) and UConnPIRG are inviting undergraduate students to stop by Student Union 106 later this week for some free groceries. This event, dubbed Husky Market by the collaborating organizations, will run from 3:30 to 5:30 this Friday – and don’t forget to bring your own bag! Following in the footsteps of the UCafé Coalition, a similar initiative run by students Wawa Gatheru and Abhishek Gupta, the Food Insecurity Task Force of USG, led by Ethan Werstler and William Schad, seeks to tackle the issue of food insecurity on campus.
“Husky Market is essentially a location where students can go to receive free groceries and other essentials, like toothpaste or paper towels,” Schad, a fourth-semester political science major, said. He serves as a USG Senator representing students in the exploratory program. “People can expect [it] will be a judgement-free area where any undergraduate student can come and get what they need at no charge. We plan to run the market every other week at the same time in the same place. If the first few weeks are successful, operations will likely increase to meet demand.”
Schad and Werstler, a fourth-semester political science and communications double major and USG Alumni Senator, established the task force last semester. They started planning Husky Market after the survey on food insecurity sent out to the student body was completed.
“The results were not made public, and admin made no announcement of a plan to deal with food insecurity, so we decided that it was the Undergraduate Student Government’s turn to step in until an official plan was put into place by [them],” Schad explained. He works as a logistical coordinator for the task force. “We came up with the idea of a food pantry, run by students for students, that offered more than just food.”
Planning for the market involved logistical planning around timing of the event and financial restraints.
“Originally, we wanted to run the market at least a few times a week, but because of funding and logistical restraints we opted on a biweekly model,” Schad said. He accredits guidance from the people of the Cafe Coalition. “Both Abhishek Gupta and Wawa Gatheru’s insights were very useful in developing our model. In addition, if it becomes clear that biweekly is not enough, then we have tentative plans to increase the frequency of the market.”
The task force hopes to tackle the overarching issue of food insecurity at UConn, which is often overlooked because it is not a “visible issue.”
“The mission of the Food Insecurity Task Force is to work to ensure that all UConn students have access to plentiful nutritious food and other essential goods,” Schad said. He describes commuter students as the most commonly affected by food insecurity, since they are not required to have a meal plan. “Few students are actually unable to get food on a regular basis. The issue is more to do with resource allocation. We do not believe any student should have to make the choice between food or books.”
Along with Husky Market, the task force collaborates with other organizations on their initiatives.
“UConnPIRG is our main partner in this endeavor, helping with funding, volunteers and logistics” Schad said. He also referred to the halal food expansion that is planned for later this semester. “Last semester, the Food Insecurity Task Force also worked with the Muslim Student Association to bring Halal options to more places on campus.”
With a student-run initiative, the task force always accepts support from anyone interested in tackling food insecurity.
“We are just very excited to be having our first market this week!” Schad said. “We are always looking for new ways to ensure UConn students are getting the things they need, and if there is anything we are overlooking, we welcome suggestions at our biweekly meetings.”
Hollie Lao is a staff writer and the social media manager for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.