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Putting Food in the Pantry Jordan Ratzlaff ’20W (MS) tackled food insecurity on the University’s campuses. By Karen McCally

The food pantry in Wilson Commons opened quietly in the spring of 2019. Jordan Ratzlaff, a Wilson Commons Student Activities graduate student employee at the time, leapt at the chance to become its first coordinator.

“Food insecurity is kind of a hidden thing on college campuses,” she says. But it exists, including at Rochester. And when the pandemic struck, it increased.

Ratzlaff had to staff the pantry, train reassigned workers, set up an online ordering system, and arrange for contactless delivery. She credits assistant dean and Campus Center director Laura Ballou ’97 for the leadership it required to raise money and increase donations—many of them coming from parents, alumni, faculty, and staff—and to work with colleagues around the University to expand the eligibility from students in Arts, Sciences & Engineering to all University students facing food insecurity, as well as postdocs.

For her part, Ballou calls Ratzlaff, who was also completing her master’s thesis at the time, the “unsung hero.” “We would never have had a food pantry without Jordan’s efforts,” she says. “Her passion and energy laid the groundwork for all this.” Ratzlaff was named the University’s Graduate Student Employee of the Year, and she was recognized with that same honor by the Northeast Association of Student Employment Administrators.

From March 18, the day the University closed its residence halls and classrooms, until the end of the spring semester, the pantry provided nearly 500 grocery bags of food. Nearly 400 bags of food went to more than 100 students over the summer.

Students weren’t always able to get to campus to pick up food. “There were a couple times I just personally did stops, and just dropped off bags,” Ratzlaff says. “My heart just can’t stand people not having food.”

Now an academic advisor with an Upward Bound program at Genesee Community College, Ratzlaff has written a book chapter about the pantry. It will be published next year in a collection intended for professionals in higher education student affairs.