As students return from spring break, those in need will have access to a new student-run food pantry at the Queen Lane Campus.
“Students can use the pantry when they need to and take what they need,” said student organizer Erika Tretner, MD program Class of 2024. “It doesn’t matter whether they need only a pound of food for the week or they need more than that.”
The food pantry will have a selection of shelf-stable items, including canned vegetables and canned milk. Students with a self-identified need for nutrition assistance can take food home for free.
The pantry room will be locked, but accessible to students with a swipe of their Drexel ID. Those who access the food pantry can do so privately, as student organizers will not have access to ID swipe information and will only count the number of swipes to keep track of how much need the pantry fulfills.
“We want to make it as clear as possible that we respect students’ privacy,” Tretner said.
Part of the pantry’s mission is to feed students in need while reducing the stigma around food insecurity.
“We want to open up conversations around food insecurity and what it means in our students’ lives,” Tretner said. “We understand that food insecurity can strike at any time. And you may be feeding just yourself, or your significant other, or a parent or sibling.”
Tretner got the idea from administrators to launch the food pantry in early 2021 when a student asked in the Class of 2024 group chat whether any other students were having a hard time getting food on a regular basis. Others responded positively – some were in need because of affordability, other because of lack of transportation, and so on.
Tretner and some of her classmates organized a second group chat, and emailed students to connect those in need of transportation to students who were headed out grocery shopping and could offer their classmates a ride.
“So many first- and second-year students stepped up and were willing to give rides,” Tretner said.
Once students were able to get into regular ride-sharing routines, need for transportation to the grocery store dwindled, and so did activity for the group chat. But Tretner had already begun working with Caitlin Curcio, the College of Medicine’s director of student affairs, to take a Queen Lane-based food pantry from concept to reality.
After spring break, Tretner will contact and onboard other student leaders for the pantry. The rising second-year MD program students will work through the summer to keep the pantry running.
In the course of launching the food pantry, Tretner has been able to discuss organization and fundraising with student leaders from Mario’s Market, a food pantry serving Drexel community members on the University City Campus.
She has also found an avenue for collaboration with students from the College of Nursing and Health Professions (CNHP). A CNHP student will help the food pantry's student leaders find nutrition information to share with College of Medicine students through methods like leaving informational fliers at the food pantry or sharing infographics to social media.
To Tretner, the collaboration that has made the Queen Lane pantry possible is typical for the College of Medicine community and for Drexel University as a whole.
“I think this is such a wonderfully collaborative community, and that’s fostered through academics and student activities,” she said. “We’re definitely encouraged to help each other, and it’s been a pleasure to find a need that can be met and to facilitate that.”