UI librarians open food pantry to fight student hunger


Liam Mathews

Located inside of the Main Library, a new food pantry is now available and free to all students.

By Liam Mathews, Contributing Writer

The Main Library, in conjunction with  Urbana’s Wesley Food Pantry, has started a food pantry that is free to all students. 

The pantry, which was started a month ago, is located in a small hallway between the Main Library’s Orange Room and the Writers Workshop. It provides various types of food from chips to beef jerky to cans of soup.

The idea to have a pantry at the Main Library has been in the works since the summer of 2022, when librarians started working with the Wesley Food Pantry to have one set up on campus.

“We started having some conversations about it last summer, making connections and figuring out what the process would be,” said Maria Emerson, student success librarian at the University Library.

The pantry was started after several University librarians agreed that their place of work presented a perfect spot to provide students with access to free food.

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“Visibility and access is greater here, we have later hours, we’re open weekends,” said David Ward, director of Library Teaching and Learning. “So a lot of it’s just about providing multiple opportunities for students to encounter support when they’re in a position where they’d like some.”

The pantry’s location is meant to provide students with privacy when addressing their food needs. 

Any University student can take however much food they want from the pantry, free of any registration or purchase. 

The pantry has been in operation for just over a month now, and so far, it has been quite successful.

“It’s taking off; our partners are figuring out which foods seem the most possible still, so I’d say we’re in an experimentation phase right now,” Ward said.

Librarians monitor the levels of food in the pantry while Wesley is in charge of restocking it as needed. All the food is provided by Wesley, free of charge to the University and its students.

It’s taking off; our partners are figuring out which foods seem the most possible still, so I’d say we’re in an experimentation phase right now.

— David Ward, Director of Library Teaching and Learning

Ward and Emerson were influential in establishing the pantry, as they agreed many students face difficulties in properly nourishing themselves through food.


“Food and security is a very real concern for many students, part of it is that the amount of use compared to the need is still very small,” Ward said.


Librarians and others involved hope that their pantry will continue to be a useful resource to University students for years to come.


“We really encourage students to come and take it – it’s made with them in mind,” Emerson said. “The last thing students need to worry about right now is where they’re gonna get food.”



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