Lane’s student food pantry is installing security cameras after a series of thefts. Its location in the Center Building is shared with the No-Cash Clothing Stash.
Associated Students of Lane Community College Sustainability Coordinator Michael Weed became concerned near the end of winter term. He received reports from people who work in the area by the pantry.
“I made the decision that I would start taking a picture of how the shelves were when I left,” Weed said, ”that way I would not just have a written but a visual representation of what was on the shelves.”
Over the course of several days, Weed saw items disappear from shelves.
They are planning to install a camera in the pantry’s food storage room. There is a camera in the distribution area pointing towards the storage room door currently as a deterrent.
After the camera installation, food stopped disappearing from the storage room.
A Clothing Stash employee came forward to Weed and admitted to taking some food that was returned by a Food Pantry customer after the pantry had closed. The person did not admit to any other thefts. The unnamed person later resigned, though Weed says it was for other reasons.
“I don’t think that was the person taking anything out of the pantry,” Weed said. “Why would they tell on themselves that way?”
ASLCC Senator Zack Wright, who works as a manager in the pantry, said no charges had been filed against anyone.
Weed said food is disappearing from the donation bins as well. He said he believes this activity is unrelated to the thefts from the pantry’s storage room.
The pantry employees are currently instructed by Weed not to say anything if somebody steals items from the donation bins.
“My rationale on that is I don’t want to hold somebody accountable who feels they are so hungry that they need to steal something out of a donation bin, because I’ve been there,” Weed said.
Pantry employees wish to discourage theft. Weed said he believes the pantry can encourage more people to come in and reduce any perceived stigma. He says pride has been a commonly reported reason for not approaching the pantry, and may have motivated thefts.
Weed also said that the thief remains unknown and may still work there currently.
Volunteers at the Food Pantry can also receive distributions as long as they meet the requirements.
“Many of the people who work in the Food Pantry are people who utilize it,” pantry manager Summer Manier said. “But at the same time, if it isn’t being given to you and you’re not… going through the program the same way as the rest of us, then it is stealing.”
The pantry has problems with vandalism, with people taking down their signs and throwing trash in the donation bins.
Weed said he once found a new unwrapped sandwich thrown in a donation bin with a soda container open and poured into the bin. He said two bags of food were ruined.
The Food Pantry is spending roughly $200 a week in addition to donations and supplies from Food for Lane County.
“We are slowly dwindling down the money we do right now,” Weed said.