Frequently Asked Questions
Using the Food Pantry
What is the Food Pantry?
The WOU Food Pantry is Western Oregon University’s campus resource for food insecurity, and our mission is to end hunger on college campuses. We are a student-run organization that is a part of Abby’s House — the gender justice and equity center on campus. Our work primarily revolves around running and expanding the campus food pantry, which is a service that proves free access to food for everyone. However, we do also provide other services like assistance with applying for SNAP benefits, and also the Money for Meals program!
When are you open?
Where is the Food Pantry?
We are located in the WOU Welcome Center, formerly known as the Oregon Military Academy Building.
Who can use the Food Pantry?
Everyone! Students, alums, staff, faculty, non-students, and even non-residents of the Monmouth-Independence area are all welcome to use our services. There are no income guidelines a customer has to meet to access our resources either!
How do I use the Food Pantry?
Just walk in during any of our operating hours. We don’t require any appointments, sign-ups, or ID checks in advance. Once you arrive, a volunteer will greet you, and help you with your shopping experience. The Pantry is set up to model a grocery store, so you can grab a bag and shop for food as you normally would by browsing our shelves, fridges, and freezers. Our service is completely free. The only thing we ask of customers is that they weigh their food, and fill out an anonymous checkout survey during each visit for our record-keeping.
How often can I use the Food Pantry?
You can use the Food Pantry as many times as you want. There are no limits on how often you can utilize our services. In fact, if you visited us and forgot to pick up something, you could visit us again that same day!
How much food can I shop for?
There are no limits on the amount of food you can shop for with our services. We only ask that you take what you need, and be considerate of your fellow customers.
How much food should I shop for?
This is entirely up to you. One of the reasons we don’t place limits on the amount of food you can shop for is because we believe that you are the best judge of your own need. Some people use the Food Pantry for a quick snack, and other people use it for their weekly groceries. Some people are only shopping for themselves, and other people are providing food for their roommates, neighbors, or families. In short: shop for the amount of food that you are comfortable with.
What kind of food do you have?
Food pantries run on donated items so, unlike a grocery store, we have a constantly changing supply of items. That being said, we try to keep a good balance of canned food, packaged items, fresh food and produce, grains, dairy, and frozen meals. The only way to know for sure is to come give us a visit! You might be surprised at the amount of high quality items we have to offer.
Do you have food that accommodates allergies or dietary restrictions?
It is more than likely that we will have items that work for your diet. However, when it comes to substitute items (e.g. non-dairy milks and gluten-free flours), we cannot guarantee that we carry these items.
Where do you get you food?
The majority of our food comes from the Marion Polk Foodshare, which a food bank in Salem. We receive food from them every week, and you can find out more about them on their website. The rest of our food comes from community donations and food drives.
How do I volunteer?
Check here to see if we currently have any volunteering opportunities! Otherwise, sign up to get on our email list, and we will inform you when we need volunteers.
Will you sign off on my volunteering hours?
Yes! The Food Pantry is a great place to fulfill service hours for classes, extracurricular programs, or to beef up your resume. The Food Pantry volunteer coordinator is always happy to sign your hours sheets. For our weekly volunteers, we also store and keep records of your volunteering hours in addition to sending out hours certificates every term.
What kinds of volunteering are there?
Generally speaking, there are two types of volunteering: one-time event volunteering and weekly volunteering. One-time events are when we need volunteers for a day or two for any events or special services that we might be hosting. An example of this is the Food Pantry’s annual Turkey Baskets event in which we provide people with traditional Thanksgiving meals. This type of volunteering is perfect if you want to help out once or twice a term for a few hours. On the other hand, weekly volunteering is for people who want to make a regular commitment to volunteering. These volunteers go to a weekly shift to staff the Food Pantry, and keep it open and operating for customers.
Who can volunteer?
Anyone can volunteer with us! That includes students, alums, staff, faculty, and community members in the Monmouth-Independence area. In general though, almost all of our volunteers are students or alums.
What do weekly volunteers do?
Weekly volunteers staff the Food Pantry and keep it open for our customers. Their primary responsibilities include: greeting and assisting customers, organizing and restocking food, discarding food that had gone bad, processing and sorting donations, checking the temperatures of food storage areas, and cleaning surfaces for health and safety.
How often do I need to volunteer?
Even one hour per week of your time helps us out so much! Typically, weekly volunteers do between 1 and 4 hours every week. Although the volunteer coordinator is happy to schedule you for more hours if you want them. Your volunteering schedule will always be at the same time every week, so there will be no surprises or sudden changes to your hours.
When in the term does volunteering start?
Our goal is to have everyone start during week one so that there is a smooth transition for our customers each term. However, we completely understand that not everyone has their class or work schedule finalized by then. You should notify the volunteer coordinator if this is the case for you. In general, we don’t add or schedule any new volunteers after Week 3 of a term.
Do I need to commit to volunteer for the whole term?
We ask that you commit to the whole term, but it’s not as intimidating as it sounds! Here’s a testimonial from one of our volunteers:
Volunteering at the Food Pantry has been a very rewarding experience for me to extend my support to the entire Monmouth-Independence community. Something that I really appreciate is that I’m able to volunteer during times that work with my schedule. Other positives of volunteering at the Food Pantry are that I’m able to work on my homework, sit and chat with my fellow volunteers, and the very flexible volunteer schedule that allows me to cancel a shift when needed. I’d highly recommend volutneering for people looking to gain some leadership experience and/or wanting to get involved with the community.
This volunteer was an RA, so even busy people have found it very easy to fit volunteering into their schedule!
Can I do homework during my shift?
Yes! There is a lot of downtime during Food Pantry shifts, so you should have plenty of time to do so.
Do I need a reason to miss a shift?
Nope! The volunteer coordinator appreciates an email to let them know you’ll be gone, but you don’t need to provide a reason or excuse. We encourage you to take any sick days, personal days, and mental health days that you need.
I forgot to go to my shift.
It happens to everyone, so don’t stress about it. Of course, you should do your best to not make a habit of it, but it’s really not a big deal. We do keep track of attendance so we can accurately log your volunteering hours, but that doesn’t mean we get upset when you miss a shift. The volunteer coordinator will probably send you an email to see if you’re okay, or if you accidentally forgot to sign in.
When should I notify the volunteer coordinator that I need to miss a shift?
As soon as possible to give the volunteer coordinator enough time to schedule someone to cover your shift. In fact, the volunteer coordinator would love it if you notified them about needing to miss a shift in Week 8 of a term when it’s still Week 1!
Can I still use the Food Pantry if I’m a volunteer?
Yes! Everyone means everyone. We only ask that you pick up food right after your shift, or during someone else’s shift. This way we ensure that all customers are treated equally, and that volunteers don’t have special or early access to food that other customers don’t have access to.
What is SNAP?
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as Food Stamps, is a government program that provides nutrition benefits to supplement the food budget of eligible households.
Am I eligible for SNAP?
To be considered for SNAP individuals and households must be below income guidelines set by the state. If you are attending school half-time you will apply as a student and need to meet additional student criteria to qualify. Here is a helpful breakdown of income guidelines and criteria for college students. Don’t worry this is not as daunting as it seems!
How do I apply for SNAP?
You can find the online application for Oregon here. A printable PDF copy is available in English or Spanish which can be turned in to a Department of Human Services (DHS) Self-Sufficiency Office. Click here to find your local Self-Sufficiency Office, they can also offer paper applications and answer questions.
What does the application process look like?
The first step is to fill out the application, if you are applying online you will be prompted to make an account, keep track of this information. You will be asked to fill in information about your income, expenses, household, and student specific questions. After the application is submitted, either online or to a Self-Sufficiency Office, and received by DHS the rest of the process must be completed within 30 days. The next step is to complete an interview. If you submit your application in person you may be able to get an interview that day, if not you will receive a call from DHS either to complete the interview right then or to schedule a more convenient time. For your interview you should be prepared to talk about how you are eligible for SNAP as a student, this is the time to advocate for yourself and also ask any questions. Be sure to submit any supplemental information or additional paperwork you are asked to complete within the original 30 day timetable. You will be notified if you have been approved or denied SNAP, if approved you will be able to access your benefits no later than 30 days after the application was submitted.
How do I use SNAP?
Once awarded SNAP, benefits are delivered on a monthly basis to an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) account. These funds can be spent with an Oregon Trail Card that functions the same as a debit card. SNAP benefits can be used at grocery stores and other qualifying establishments to purchase food. Click here for a map of retailers that accept SNAP in your area and click here for a list of what foods SNAP can and cannot buy.
Have questions or need help?
The Food Pantry team can help answer any questions and guide you through the application process. The process can be confusing but we are here to help! Click here to make an appointment with a Food Pantry staff member for any questions or concerns about eligibility, the application process, or if you just need help getting started!
Money For Meals
What is Money for Meals?
Money For Meals, previously known as the Voucher Program, is a service for WOU students experiencing high need or distress who cannot fully meet their needs at the Food Pantry. After a meeting with a Food Pantry staff member, we are able to provide you with a gift card of your choice to Waremart or Campus Dining.
Who can use the Money For Meals?
This program is for WOU students only.
How often can I use the Money For Meals?
You can use Money For Meals once per term while you are a student at WOU.
How do I access Money For Meals?
What is the sign up process for Money For Meals?
Once you make an appointment, you need to show up with your physical student ID. A Food Pantry Staff member will then ask you a series of questions to learn about your needs. After that, you can select a Waremart or Campus Dining gift card, and then you’re all set.
Why do you need my student ID?
Since the Money For Meals is only for current WOU students, this is how we verify your information. Additionally, since you can only use the program once per term, we need your V# to keep track of who has used the program.
Who has access to the program record?
Only WOU Food Pantry staff members have access to the record. The record only includes your V#, and no other identifying information such as your name. We take your privacy very seriously, and will keep your information and meeting details confidential.
Is it better to donate food or money?
We always appreciate both! However, food donations are best during the holidays and Winter because that is generally when we need the most food. Donating food is also the most immediate way to help our customers. On the other hand, donating money goes towards more long-term ways of helping us improve our services.
Where does my money go?
Donations generally go towards office supplies, web services, upgrading our equipment, and other Pantry expenses. We receive enough food from our partner food bank, the Marion Polk Food Share, as well as community donors that we do not need to purchase additional food.
Where does my food go?
Your food goes directly to Pantry customers which includes WOU students, WOU staff or faculty, and community members of the Monmouth-Independence area.
What food should I donate?
When should I drop off food?
You can drop off donations during any of our operating hours, which you can find here! However, if you have a large donation (Several boxes, crates, or truck loads) please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can schedule additional volunteers to help process your donation.
What if my food is expired?
Often times, food lasts longer than its printed expiration date. Our volunteers are trained to inspect food, so please bring your expired items and a volunteer will determine if we can keep it.
What if the packaging is damaged?
If the packaging is damaged in a way that exposes the food to open air, we cannot accept it. Otherwise, bring your item and a volunteer will determine if we can keep it.
What time of year is best to donate?
January and February are generally the times when we have the least amount of food. Any food donations during those times are incredibly helpful to us!
What other items can you accept?
We can accept hygiene products, school supplies, and pet food!
What items can you not accept?
We cannot accept clothes, alcohol, medicine, and home-canned or cooked food.
How should I write the check?
Write the check for Western Oregon University, and include “WOU Food Pantry” in the Memo section to ensure your donation goes to us.
Where do I drop off my cash or check?
You can mail it to us with the following address:
Attn: Abby’s House
345 Monmouth Ave N,
Monmouth, OR 97361
Abby’s House is the parent organization of the Food Pantry, and will process your donation. If you are donating cash, include a note in the envelope that it is for the Food Pantry.
Can I donate with a debit or credit card?
Yes! Visit the WOU Foundation page here to donate. Be sure to select “WOU Food Pantry” under the Designation section to ensure your donation goes to us.