A Beacon of Light During A Dark Year: Sinclair’s Food Pantry Returns

The Sinclair Food Pantry was established earlier in 2020 before the COVID-19 pandemic swept through the nation. Its goal was to help students as well as their families who were facing food insecurity. Such a matter was already an issue within the city of Dayton which has previously been declared a food desert, therefore making Sinclair’s Food Pantry highly crucial to the community. 

However, on March 11 as Gov. DeWine declared colleges to suspend face to face classes, this meant everything on campuses – such as the Food Pantry – were to close as well. But, Sinclair’s Food Pantry once more opened its doors on Oct. 7 and again on Oct. 21 to great reception.
When asked if there were any emotional responses from students, Dr. Matt Massie, Manager of Student and Community Engagement who additionally serves as the campus lead for the food pantry (a tentative title, as positions there lack official names) admitted he had seen a little bit of this reaction. 

“Everyone is facing uncertainty right now,” said Massie, “but when you’re also facing this uncertainty and you’re worried about where your next meal is going to come from, I can only imagine how much harder that is.”

One of the ways the COVID-19 pandemic left an impactful wave was in how businesses both big and small shut their doors during the early days of the statewide shutdowns. 

These closings in turn meant that people who were once employed became without jobs. Or alternatively, they were let go from work. In 2020 alone, unemployment rose higher in three months of COVID-19 than it did in two years of the Great Recession.  

This chain of events causes individuals to be without the financial means to provide for themselves in all forms, including when it comes to the matter of obtaining food. This is how food banks are again shown to be a necessity, even for those who had never needed the assistance of one before.
Prior to Sinclair’s Food Pantry reopening, during the summer Massie and others affiliated with Sinclair, continued to serve the community by hosting several drive-up food pantries. They prepared boxes of dry goods and allowed students to pick them up. These events were assisted by campus facilities as well as campus police.

“We knew we had students who were at need and needed access to the food that we had in the pantry,” said Massie, “so we came together.”
The Sinclair Food Pantry, which in Massie’s words is a “condensed version of a grocery store” with the exclusion of refrigerated items and produce, follows all of Sinclair’s regulations and policies related to safety during COVID-19.

A mask is required for entry, one-time use pens are enacted, wipe downs with Clorox and Lysol sprays occur between each time a student accesses a cart and the number of students who can enter at once are limited. Massie admitted that there was a bit of a challenge presented through this.

“If you think of aisles in a grocery store, we have something similar in our pantry,” Massie explained. “We have students wait exterior to the pantry and as a new space opens up, we only allow a few in. There’s a natural progression, a flow if you will, of how to move through the pantry as you’re selecting your items, which helps us reduce interaction between students and maintain social distancing.”
Despite the fact this prolongs the process a bit, it did not cause any waiting students to lose their patience. 

“It went really well,” Massie reflected, “the students that make up Sinclair are a tremendous, tremendous group of people. And the students that shop at the pantry are always so thankful for the support the college is providing and that really came through during that first open pantry after we relaunched.”

Furthermore, Massie acknowledged how the staff and services that make up Sinclair Community College have also been tremendously helpful during this time.

“Our counseling service office is working themselves like crazy to provide resources and support for students who are in need. And with my role within student affairs, I’m very fortunate to make connections for students and help students get to those resources.” 

Although its doors are closed for the remainder of this month. Next month, the Food Pantry will be open on Nov. 4 and Nov. 18 from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. It is open to students only.

Ayzha Middlebrooks
Executive Editor

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