Pop-Up Pantry Fills Critical Need

Pop-Up Pantry Fills Critical Need
(from top left) Noah Shoates, Gary Hooker and Caroline Dugas

Mason undergraduates Noah Shoates, an information systems and operations management major, Gary Hooker, a psychology major and Caroline Dugas, an undeclared major, have joined forces to lead Mason’s Pop-Up Pantry. Pop-Up Pantry founder, Yara Mowafy, MA ’15, graduated in December and transitioned the organization’s management to the three Leadership and Community Engagement Living Learning Community residents in fall 2015. The Leadership and Community Engagement LLC is run through Social Action and Integrative Learning (SAIL).

The pantry provides up to 25 pounds of mostly non-perishable food to Mason students, faculty and staff each week, as well as a 9-pound bag of Panera bread for those who request it. The food is donated and those in need can “shop” at the pantry after completing a simple information form. The pantry assures complete anonymity and also provides job information, housing opportunities and special events information through a weekly electronic mailing.

Shoates estimates that 50 community members come to the pantry on a weekly/biweekly basis and another 40 people come on an as needed basis. In addition to the three co-leaders, 10 to 15 regular volunteers help stock shelves, track inventory and package fresh bread donated by Panera. The pantry operates with help from the Office of Student Support and group advisor Brent Ericson, Mason’s assistant dean of students and director of the Office of Student Conduct.

Shoates came to the Pop-Up Pantry following fall semester of 2014 when he volunteered at a food pantry in the Bren Mar community of Fairfax County. Realizing that there was a similar need and organization on Mason’s campus, he began volunteering at the Pop-Up Pantry.

The three students had a strong friendship as members of the same LLC. Working together on a project which they believe has strengthened their connection.

Shoates said, “We were all friends in the LLC, but now we also have a professional relationship. We feel comfortable with each other and it’s good to have three minds working together to think things through and bounce ideas off one another.”

Shoates said that the project has been very rewarding. He said, “We are in one of the richest counties in America but there are so many pockets of need… We are doing something that should be done. It’s rewarding to know that we’re working with people to make sure that we all share the same opportunities and successes.”

The pantry is located in room 4207 of SUB I. Inquiries may be sent to pantry@gmu.edu or 703-993-5376.