With coffee shop, students fight hunger


Emma Li

The Etc Coffeehouse donation goes to the Wesley Food Pantry which provides food for people who are in need in Champaign County on Friday, Nov 18,2016.

By Emma Palatnik, Staff writer

Etc. Coffeehouse opened in 1964 as a place where students could gather to study, drink coffee and chat with one another.

Since then, it has transformed into a space where students can also fight hunger.

The coffeeshop, located at the corner of Green Street and Goodwin Avenue, is different from a typical shop because  of its self-service, so there are no baristas working. The coffeeshop is part of the Wesley Student Center and is open weekdays from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. during the school year.

All coffees and teas are fair trade and specialty drinks are also  available.

There is no set price for the coffee because the payment is donation based, and students are encouraged to donate a few dollars when they take a cup.

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Julie Dowler, campus minister at the Wesley Student Center, said after they cover basic expenses, the profits are split between the Wesley Food Pantry and Illini Fighting Hunger.

The Wesley Food Pantry serves around 12,000 people a year in Champaign County.

According to the Wesley Food Pantry website, its mission is to “alleviate food insecurity in our community one family at a time by providing them with one week’s worth of nutritious groceries.”

It is also a “choice model pantry” where clients are allowed to choose the food items they need, instead of being handed prepacked bags.

Wesley Food Pantry was the first pantry in the area to offer evening hours. This helps people who work during the day, as they might not have the time otherwise to pick up groceries.

The Wesley Food Pantry is open every Thursday from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. It offers student-only hours the first Monday of every month from 3 to 5 p.m. A student ID is required to receive food.

Illini Fighting Hunger is an RSO and one of the student groups at Wesley. It is also a chapter of Universities Fighting World Hunger.

As of November 2016, the RSO has packaged, in total, 1,861,429 meals, which includes 113,547 pounds of rice, 2,930 pounds of pasta and 30,950 pounds of beans.

The coffeehouse also relies on volunteers from the national service fraternity, Alpha Phi Omega, to keep it up and running. The fraternity helps make coffee, clean tables, wash dishes and organize staff events.

Christie Learned, sophomore in FAA, is a member of the service fraternity but said she comes to the coffeehouse for more than just volunteering.

“I do come here just on my own time. I like the quietness and the free coffee, and it’s pretty close to the Quad and classes,” Learned said.

The coffeehouse is also used for social events.

On Fridays from 4  to 6 p.m. Etc. hosts an “International Coffeehouse” where students can come to practice English, meet people from different places around the world or just hang out. Sometimes there are themes like Christmas cookie decorating, a Halloween costume party, “Friendsgiving” or Easter egg dying. They also have mid-week worship services, book studies and meals.

During finals week, Wesley has free snacks all day long in Etc. Coffeehouse. It aims to cater to students and encourage them to study in the space.

Brenda Gutierrez, sophomore in LAS, said she likes coming to the coffeehouse because it’s usually quiet and not too crowded.

Even though Wesley is a Methodist organization, Dowler said she wants students to know that everyone is welcome to come to Etc. regardless of their religious background.

“You don’t have to be Christian to study here. You don’t have to be from any particular place, you don’t have to be any particular sexual orientation, we are open to everybody here,” said Dowler.

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