Colonel’s Closet re-opened Monday-Friday for the fall semester: Kristin Osipower encourages students in need to visit in-person or order online

Kristin+Osipower%2C+campus+interfaith+coordinator%2C+pictured+in+front+of+the+Colonel%E2%80%99s+Closet+food+pantry.

Steffen Horwath

Kristin Osipower, campus interfaith coordinator, pictured in front of the Colonel’s Closet food pantry.

Maria DiBuo, Life, Arts & Entertainment Editor

Nestled inside the Interfaith Office on the second floor of the Henry Student Center lies Colonel’s Closet, a food pantry available to students, staff or faculty members who may be in need of extra assistance obtaining essential items.

Colonel’s Closet offers a variety of goods, from non-perishable to fresh foods, as well as personal and household care items. According to the College and University Food Bank Alliance, 30 percent of college students are food insecure, increasing the importance of Colonel’s Closet on campus.

“If we can help them take care of the essentials and alleviate some of the burden so they can focus more on their studies or other necessities, that’s a win-win for the university,” said Kristin Osipower, who oversees the Colonel’s Closet, when speaking of the purpose of the pantry.

Colonel’s Closet began in 2016, when Osipower took on the role at the university. Throughout the years, it has grown, with more students stopping in each year. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the pantry provided for both students and staff who stayed near campus, as well as those who were commuter students, already residing in the Wyoming Valley area.

In addition, supplemental funding received from the university, as well as the CARES Act received by the university, were used to purchase gift cards for students who were in need or food- insecure. Those at Colonel’s Closet also directed students toward other resources in the community.

“Statistics pointed in the direction that we would see an increase in need because of COVID, but can I say definitively that the increase is because of COVID? I can’t say that,” explained Osipower. “We have seen more students using it this year, but it could be because it’s becoming more apart of the university fabric and people know that we’re here.”

According to Osipower, throughout the first two weeks of the semester, there have already been 10 in-person orders, as well as 15 online orders — a large increase in online ordering from the previous school year, where the online system was utilized by only three students.

“We’re pushing that a little more this year with COVID too, and it’s working out really, really well,” said Osipower.

Students interested in frequenting Colonel’s Closet are encouraged to make appointments with Osipower and schedule a time to come into the pantry. From there, individuals can come in and choose the products they need. Changing from last year, items are limited to two of a kind, due to the increase in usage seen this semester.

Products in the Colonel’s Closet are sourced through the pantry’s fund, as well as through the CEO Foodbank located in Pittston, which supplies fresh produce to Colonel’s Closet, helping to keep the fridge fully stocked. Additionally, many items in the pantry are obtained through donations from students, faculty and staff.

“I have some tips for making responsible donations,” said Osipower. “Donating is not a time to clean out the pantry, or if you are, which we all need to do sometimes, please check the expiration dates beforehand.”

For individuals interested in donating to the pantry, Osipower recommends checking in with Colonel’s Closet before donating, as the need for certain items in the pantry varies from week to week, in addition to the fact that the pantry staff attempts to stock items that are palatable for college students.

“And then it’s little things, like not every student comes to college with a can opener. They don’t think about that,” explained Osipower. “So if you can make the choice where there’s a pop top lid, it’s so much easier for college students, especially those that live in residence halls.”

For Osipower, her main concern is ensuring those in need, especially students, feel comfortable coming to Colonel’s Closet if they are in need, as occasionally, there is a stigma associated with frequenting food pantries, according to moveforhunger.org. For this reason, Colonel’s Closet maintains confidentiality among its visitors.

“There are some students who come, and there’s a hesitation for a variety of reasons,” explained Osipower. “I just like to remind students that there will come a day when they’ll be on the other side of things. The best way to repay me is to pay it forward, just helping out efforts like this, wherever they go in life.”

Appointments for Colonel’s Closet are available from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Mondays through Fridays this semester, and can be made by emailing [email protected] wilkes.edu. Additionally, online order forms can be found at wilkes.edu/ studentpantry.

“They’re here for a reason, and my reason is simply to help them,” said Osipower.