UT Food Pantry and Career Closet Reopens in Renovated Space

UT Outpost reopens to end food insecurity

 

The purpose of the UT Outpost is simple: to end food insecurity on campus and reduce barriers to professional and academic success. 

UT Outpost is a food and toiletry pantry and professional career closet where students can get necessities for free, offering a solution to an issue silently plaguing students across campus. 

On October 10th, the UT Outpost reopened in a renovated space in UA9 3.108, with access to an elevator lift and a large storeroom where students can shop independently.  

The Start

The origins of the UT Outpost is one of student persistence and success. 

Students passionate about addressing food insecurity on campus got together and organized meetings with influential campus leadership across the university. After many brainstorming sessions and iterations, the idea of the UT Outpost was created. 

Although food insecurity was the driver for the initiative, access to expensive professional attire quickly emerged as another challenge to low-income students looking to attend professional events and take advantage of UT’s vast network of internship and career opportunities. The career closet was then added on.

UT’s Office of the Dean of Students adopted the project and appointed Will Ross as the staff advisor that supports student ideas and ensures the continuation of the initiative as students graduate and start their careers. 

“I like to envision my role as a tandem bike. I will always be there pedaling and the students can always be in front steering it and getting us where we need to be,” said Will Ross. 

Sustainability

In addition to its role in promoting social equity on campus, the UT Outpost works to mitigate environmental damage caused by food and fashion waste.   

“Along our journey, we noticed how our mission intersects with sustainability. In the fashion industry, there is a lot of waste,” said Ross. “How cool to be able to donate your [professional clothing] through the UT Outpost?”

In terms of food waste, Ross also describes how UT Outpost works with different organizations and departments on campus, including UT Farm Stand, to collect and reclaim nonperishables and fresh produce to stock their pantry. 

A student-run, pop-up thrift shop, called Trash to Treasure, hosts dorm move-out donation drives every year and donates all food items to UT Outpost. Last year they donated 1,917 lbs in total. 

This campus-community support provides sustainability to the food pantry and career closet not only environmentally but operationally as they are sustained entirely on donations. 

Overall, the UT Outpost gives items a second life to students that really need them.

Utilizing Services

Qualifying for UT Outpost services is as easy as being a Longhorn - the only requirement is being enrolled in at least one course. 

There is no need to prove your financial-need status. UT Outpost strives to “create a space that lowers the stigma of food insecurity and financial hardship,” as put by Ross.  

Thanks to the new renovation, when you arrive, you sign in at the front desk and shop independently as you would at a grocery store. When you are finished, you check out and leave with a sustainable tote bag full of your items!

Some details to note:

  • Location: UA9 3.108 at 2609 University Avenue. On the West side of the Student Services Building. There are stairs and an elevator lift to the third floor. 
  • Hours: Tuesday: 3 p.m. - 7 p.m.; Wednesday: 10 a.m. - 2 p.m.; Thursday: 2 p.m. - 6 p.m.; Friday: 2 p.m. - 6 p.m.
  • Quantity: Students can pick up 20 lbs of pantry items per month and take one full professional outfit, including clothing and shoes, per semester. This is to own, not to rent.
  • It’s all free!

Supporting the Initiative

If you are a student, staff or faculty member that is interested in targeting food and financial-insecurity on campus, there are several ways to get involved using their website.

  1. Volunteer. They always need help running, organizing and supporting the store.
  2. Donate items. Individuals and organizations can drop off food items, toiletries and professional clothing, including cap and gowns. The full list of accepted items is on the website.
  3. Host an event in support of UT Outpost. Student organizations, offices and departments can host donation drives as it fits their mission. The UT Outpost can provide support in the form of branded donation bins and advice on how other organizations have hosted events.
  4. Apply for a student-position. At the end of each spring semester, they hire student staff to help run and grow the UT Outpost. It always helps to volunteer before applying! 
  5. Make a financial gift. 

To schedule a donation, set up a food drive, or learn about volunteer opportunities, contact UT Outpost at utoutpost@austin.utexas.edu or at 512-232-6174.

Authored by Anthony Rivera, Texas Sustainability intern and Moody College of Communications senior. Click on image below to see the Flickr Album of photos by Kathryn Gatliff. Texas Sustainability intern and Neuroscience sophomore.