Matoaka Kipp ’16 Helps Provide Basic Needs Items to Simmons Students
This fall, the REEF Support Center will be launching a Community Resource Room (CRR) that will provide food access and basic needs items to all Simmons students. Matoaka Kipp '16, the Director of The REEF Support Center, talks about the development of the CRR and how students can access it.
What does the Community Resource Room offer for Simmons students?
Food access has been a long-time topic of conversation and student-run organizing on the Simmons campus I want to promote a framework where people are really thinking about the CRR as a tool for community care. Food is so personal and so emotional; pulling upon the rich histories of Black and Indigenous solidarity movements, food is the greatest community organizing tool there is. Students are deserving of this resource, regardless of how and when they access food. This room is not about charity or hierarchy, it's about taking care of each other through sharing resources like food.
One of the first steps we took in making this room a reality was making sure that the community part of it was central. There is a reason that we named the Community Resource Room with “community” in the title, rather than a transitional name such as “food pantry”. I, in addition to a dedicated committee of students, faculty, and staff, really wanted to make sure that this room was for and by the community and felt collaborative. The CRR is very much a community effort.
We did a community survey of the entire community, staff, students, faculty, community members, and alumni. We had about 300 responses and we learned that 43% of students who responded either struggle with access to food consistently or consistently do not have food at all. From that, we also looked at what items people would want in the Resource Room. The items we ordered are in direct response to what people said they wanted. Of course, that can change and there are so many people who will utilize the room who didn't fill out the survey, but that's how we figured out what we could provide and what specific products people wanted.
As a result, the Room will be Simmons's first formal, no-cost resource room that will have nonperishable food items, period products, and general hygiene products like soap, shampoo, toothpaste, etc. We will also provide basic school supplies like notebooks, pens, and binders. Because this is the pilot year, the hope is that we provide all the things that people need, but it's a small resource, and we are starting slow and small to be sustainable.
How can students access the room?
The Community Resource Room is located within the REEF Support Center in the basement of the Main College Building in A-075.
We will have students fill out a registration form for the academic year. Right now, there are limited ways for us to know how many Simmons students are unhoused or how many students are struggling to access food are first-generation students, low-income students, students of color, queer students, etc. This yearly registration form will be a way for us to do that and keep student information private, while also identifying the needs of our community. This form will also allow students to place orders without filling in their information every time. Once students fill out the registration form, they're eligible to utilize the resource one time per month.
Each student has 30 points to use each month and they can make one order per month by filling out an order form. The point system does not correlate to the value or size of the food; it correlates to how quickly we think it's going to run out. For example, we have laundry detergent sheets, and there are 60 sheets in a pack. That might be worth 3 points while a can of beans might be worth 0.5 points. This system is how we're going to be sustainable and keep of track what items go quickly and what items aren't very popular.
Once an order is placed, it will be ready within 24-48 hours. The pickup location is in the hallway outside of the REEF Support Center. It is fully contactless pickup, and the student's initials will be on an order number. Pickup will be available Monday-Friday, 2:00 pm to 6:00 pm.
How can students get involved with the CRR?
The best way that students can get involved at this time is, whether individually or in groups, to create care packages that can be featured in the CRR. It will help ensure that this resource is as accessible as possible. An example of this is for Black History Month. Students can develop a care package specifically for Black History Month and specifically for Black students who are utilizing the room. Or maybe for finals season, to make a care package that has tips for studying and a swag item from Simmons.
We have hired a team of six undergraduate students who are going to be our Food Advocates. They will oversee packing the monthly orders and receiving donations.
Another way the Simmons community can get involved is through sponsoring or designing a recipe that features an item from the resource room. One of the roles of our food advocates is to share a monthly recipe that features an item that we have. This is a really great opportunity, specifically for groups on campus who celebrate with food, to highlight specific cultural foods or recipes.
We have an Amazon wishlist where you can see exactly what items the CRR is looking for. It's a powerful way, especially for our alumni, to respond to a direct need in a way where they will know exactly where their donation is going.