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Pirate Pantry: Sustainable Solutions to Campus Food Insecurity

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Pirate Pantry: Sustainable Solutions to Campus Food Insecurity


A skeleton in the back corner donned a pirate outfit and held a framed newspaper article: “One Pirate’s Trash is Another Pirate’s Treasure”. A newspaper clipping, a remnant of the last printed paper from The Megaphone, detailed the start of the Treasure Chest from the fall semester of 2019, right before the COVID pandemic that stunned the world. Two and a half years later, the Treasure Chest, with a few modifications, is still standing, including a new room and a new companion, the Pirate Pantry.

The Treasure Chest and Pirate Pantry are located on the first floor of the Joe S. Mundy Hall (called Mundy for short) right past the doors underneath the bridge. The sign posted before the entrance says the Pirate Pantry (and Treasure Chest by extension) is open on Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. It is a decently sized room with a donation box at its entrance and a suggestion box to the right. 

The Pirate Pantry and Treasure Chest is located on the first floor of Mundy through the door underneath the bridge pictured here.
Photo by Anthony Garcia

A quick glance around the room and one can see the various objects neatly placed about — a few books and pairs of shorts on a table; a rack full of t-shirts and blouses in the center; miscellaneous mugs, shoes, and more clothes on the right; and finally the Pirate Pantry, two metal shelves stocked with non-perishable food items and K-cups.

One thing absent in the room, save me, were people. I had the entire room to myself to browse the shelves and examine the Pop-Tarts and Ramen at eye level. The area had no supervision, no workers keeping watch.

“We didn’t think we needed anybody to watch the room,” Sustainability Ambassador Reece Sandercock explained. “Anyone can come in during our posted times to give and take whatever they want.”

The Pirate Pantry and Treasure Chest are in the same room as soon as you enter Mundy. A treasure chest features a hand-written sign asking for donations to placed in it with a suggestion box placed on the table near the entrance, begging to be used.
Photo by Anthony Garcia

Ever since the department got rid of the Treasure Chest’s “coin system” for “purchasing” donations, they realized that there wasn’t a need for anyone to stay posted. But how could they know the space and resources were being utilized?

“I will never see people in the Pirate Pantry, but then I’ll check the suggestion box and see so many notes. It’s really satisfying to know that we’re able to help so many people,” Sandercock explained.

The suggestion box acts as both a source of validation for the Sustainability Ambassadors’ efforts and helps guide their decisions. Suggestions tell them what to add, what to take away, and how to improve their program overall.

At their core, the Pirate Pantry and Treasure Chest, maintained by the Sustainability Ambassadors and the Office of Sustainability, operate with a philosophy that combating food insecurity and creating a system for community care to thrive are necessary parts of campus-wide sustainability efforts.

“The Treasure Chest and Pirate Pantry help Southwestern become more sustainable. Most people don’t view food insecurity as a sustainability issue, but it really is,” said Sandercock.

When most folks think of sustainability issues, food insecurity may not be their first thought. But, it is important to remember that sustainability is an intersectional issue. It is not limited to taking care of the environment. Sustainability needs to include taking care of our community, providing food, clothes, and whatever our peers need to have a successful college career.

Furthermore, the Treasure Chest specifically reduces clothing waste by providing a site on-campus to donate clothes for fellow students. In a similar vein, the Pirate Pantry also ensures food donations stay within our campus ecosystem and help out our community. These two donation places are a great way to fuel community engagement while caring for the people around you.

The Sustainability Ambassadors plan on hosting a food drive on Wednesday, March 23 from 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. to help raise awareness for their program and encourage students to donate what they can. The Pirate Pantry always needs canned food items, Pop-Tarts (and any other on-the-go snacks), and microwaveable or easy-to-make food. However, any non-perishable food items are welcomed.

While the event is specifically for the Pirate Pantry, students are encouraged to drop off any donations — from clothes, dishes, cutlery, non-perishable food items, etc. — for either program in Mundy on Monday to Friday from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.


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