The Westfield Voice

The Student News Site of Westfield State University

The Westfield Voice

The Westfield Voice

Common Goods Faces Lack of Supply as Needs Increase

By Janey Beardsley and Taylor Beamenderfer

Westfield State University’s Common Goods Food Pantry is having trouble keeping up with demand. Due to an increase in use, the pantry may have to adjust how their visitors utilize the program.

Second Congregational Church where Common Goods is located

While Common Goods saw significant usage in past years, the number of visitors has more than doubled this semester. According to Common Goods graduate assistant Danny Dobek, in Spring 2019, there was a total of 19 visitors. However, this semester has seen upwards of 43 visitors as of Nov. 13, with around 123 visits, meaning there are repeat visitors. 

Already the food and supplies are flying off the shelves, “Common Goods is growing; that’s a good thing… But we’ve seen a rise, almost double the amount of students coming in than there were last semester and with that we’re not necessarily seeing double the amount of donated goods,” said Dobek.

Common Goods Graduate Assistant, Danny Dobek, restocks shelves at the pantry

Common Goods receives donations weekly, and during November and December the pantry will typically see an increase in donations for the holidays as more canned food drives occur, and more people are in the giving spirit. This holiday surge is often critical for the year-round supply of the pantry, to the chagrin of Coordinator Celeste Donovan. “I’m despondent that it’s the only time of year we’re called to arms on this…” she said, “People need food all year.”

While the pantry struggles to keep up with the ever increasing demand, they must find ways to combat the issue. “Something we’ve always valued about Common Goods is that we give patrons the dignity and freedom of choice.” Donovan added that any limits put on using the resource will be “as soft and generous as possible.”

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One suggestion offered was a “one-bag policy,” wherein patrons would only be allowed to take enough supplies to fit into a bag provided by the pantry. Though this would work to limit demand, it would require the pantry to give less, and Donovan states that Common Goods “…[would not] care to go down that route.”

Instead, she said that the pantry is forming partnerships with the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, the United Way of Western Massachusetts, and the Westfield Food Bank in order to seek more sustainable supply options. “We’re going to be exploring options that are appropriate to the amount of use we’re getting…it is the reality that we have the responsibility to break out and seek more of that sustained support.”

However, an anonymous WSU student didn’t seem to mind the possibility of mitigating goods, for “it would prevent the shortage in supplies.” They went on to say, “If the Common Goods pantry is becoming more popular, … getting more food for the pantry should be addressed.”

The student then suggested the university and clubs on campus should be more involved in regularly collecting goods, “so that the supplies are there when [Common Goods] needs to be restocked.”

Common Goods began in 2016, and is located at the Second Congregational Church adjacent to the large commuter lot next to Wilson. Here, non-perishable food items, toiletries, cleaning supplies, and dishware are made available to the entire WSU community every Tuesday and Wednesday from 12pm-4pm.

To find out more about Common Goods, or to organize a donation collaboration email [email protected]

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