Roadrunner Pantry experiences slow down of hard goods donations

Faith Kouadio, Contributing Writer

Operating since 2017, the Roadrunner Pantry, also known as the Whataburger Resource Room, has sought to ensure UTSA students have access to healthy food regardless of their situation. In 2019, the pantry met success when over 3,000 students were served. As the world was transformed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the pantry found itself helping to feed twice as many students. The Roadrunner Pantry has already had 9,777 visits since the start of this year alone.

The pantry is tucked near the northern end of the Student Union. It is typically stocked with canned and boxed non-perishables, non-food items ranging from kitchen utensils, to toiletries and feminine hygiene products as well as fresh produce which was recently added to its inventory. Students currently have a free choice of up to three food items, produce items and non-food items each per daily visit. 

At the peak of the pandemic, the Roadrunner Pantry continued to serve students by handing out bags filled with nutritionally balanced foods and even provided rolls of toilet paper. They persisted and helped students through the winter freeze in 2021, where the pantry saw 7,679 visitors. Emergency kits are available when the pantry is closed or if students were unable to visit in person during open hours. These kits can be collected at the information desk in the Student Union, Wellness 360, Wellbeing Services or at the Campus Rec downtown. 

“The pandemic showed a mass increase in students,” Nikki Lee, senior associate director of the Student Union, who helps manage the pantry, said. “Groceries are expensive, gas is expensive … even if it’s one time, you’re on campus for so many hours and you forgot your wallet, or you ran out of money for the week. It’s so important that we keep the pantry feeling like it’s open and accessible to everybody. There is no shame in that.”

Despite record-breaking visits, donations of hard goods have slowed. The generous individuals, organizations and UTSA staff members who make regular or large donations and volunteers are greatly appreciated; however, some high demand goods are still difficult to come by. Canned meats, pasta sauce, soups and even plastic items, like bags and cutlery packs, are all valued and needed. Moving forward, the goal is to structure the Roadrunner Pantry and provide items to match the needs of students in an ever-changing world; survey forms will be digitalized to facilitate the process and recipes from the Department of Nutrition and the Honors College are now available to help students prepare healthy meals. 

This year, the university also saw its first ever Move-in Market. The market is similar to a garage sale where donated household items are available to students moving on and around campus to settle in their new homes. There are plans for a similar Move-out Market, a drive to collect donations of household items. Lee also aims to engage with football fans to help raise goods for the community. 

“I hope to do a food drive competition with one of the football games,” Lee said. “So maybe next football season we could do a food drive competition at the game to converge thousands of pounds of food to be donated at each campus.”

The Roadrunner Pantry relies on donations from the community. Donations are accepted through in-person drop-offs in the Student Union, and monetary donations are accepted at Donors can also purchase items for the pantry from their Amazon wishlist which can be found on the Whataburger Resource Room website under Ways to Donate.