The Haverford game room, located on the first floor of the Whitehead Campus Center, is now home to a new student initiative: the Nest. The Nest is a food pantry where eligible low-income students can grab a snack, food to cook with, or a meal.
Many low-income students move to the apartments (HCA), where they are not required to be on a meal plan. They do so in order to use the money that would’ve been used for the meal plan to pay for school or other necessities.
“This often left a lot of students seriously food insecure,” said co-manager Hasibe Caballero-Gomez ‘21. “I know many of us tried getting jobs at places where we could eat, like the Coop, Lunt Cafe, or the DC, but even then that usually only ensured you only got one meal a day.”
Food insecurity is particularly serious during academic breaks when many students have to stay on campus because it is unsafe or too expensive to travel home. During these times, places where students get food, including the Dining Center, close.
“The goal of the pantry is to provide food assistance for students who may have a difficult time accessing these resources for any reason,” said co-manager Annette Lee ‘22.
The Nest offers snacks, such as trail mix, fruit cups, and protein bars, and ingredients for cooking, including rice, flour, and vegetables. The Haverfarm’s new high tunnel allows the Nest to have fresh produce throughout the year. Food options change throughout the semester as students share feedback about what they would like to see more of at the Nest.
The Nest’s staff is also working on community-building programming including cooking videos, bi-weekly newsletters, and a raffle for students who frequent the space.
“The Nest is like the kitchen table of a loving family member or friend,” said Raquel Esteves-Joyce, associate director of the Office of Academic Resources and assistant dean of first-generation, low-income student support and programming, “It’s where you go to be nourished in multiple ways.”
The Nest initially opened in the spring of this year before students were sent home due to COVID-19, and it re-opened for the students on-campus during the summer.
While the Nest is a new addition to campus, students and staff have worked for years to make it possible. Food insecurity on campus was brought to the forefront in 2016 with the “We’re Not Here to Say Thank You Campaign,” in which Haverford students on financial aid discussed the challenges they face on campus.
Following those conversations, the Office of Multicultural Affairs began a food pantry in Stokes to serve students during academic breaks when food insecurity was a particular concern. Then, planning for a food pantry that would operate during the academic year began last year.
The Nest was born of a collaboration between departments on campus including Facilities, the Haverfarm, Dining Services, and the Dean’s Office. Students, including Lía Hermosillo Rojas ’22, who helped to plan for The Nest last year, and co-managers Lee and Caballero-Gomez, were crucial in leading this process.
“Folks from across the College have helped to create the Nest and it is immensely appreciated,” said Michael Elias, associate dean of the College and dean of student engagement and divisional initiatives. Elias does the ordering, budgeting, and hiring for the Nest.
In addition to the co-managers Lee and Caballero-Gomez, the current student workers at the Nest are Brandon Alonso ’22, Aishah Collison-Cofie ’22, Liz Mari ‘23, Eyasu Shumie ‘21, Brandon Pita ‘22, and Cathy Zhu ‘23.
“The Nest’s staff have taken the initial vision and expanded it in ways that we couldn’t imagine last year,” said Esteves-Joyce. “Their hard work, dedication, and ingenuity have elevated the Nest to new heights.”
Caballero-Gomez and Lee have already begun thinking about how the Nest can continue to improve and grow.
“I really wish it could look more like a grocery store, as I believe that would make it a more dignified experience,” said Caballero-Gomez, “It’s not about giving low-income kids anything, it’s about addressing inequality, and that means creating a space as nice and presentable as the Coop. If tour guides aren’t willing to go down there and show it, then it’s not good enough.”
They also want to expand their space and stock in order to support a larger population of first-generation, low-income students.
Anyone who has questions about the food pantry or who is interested in contributing or donating should contact the Nest by email.
“It’s been a lot of work these past couple months opening the place up, getting everything running and organized. But it’s been really nice,” said Caballero-Gomez. “It’s long overdue.”