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Campus & Community

SGA Allocates Additional $400K+ to Support Student Services

Funding Exceeds $1M This School Year; New Money to Fight Food Insecurity, Bolster Crisis Fund, Create Student Jobs

By Sala Levin ’10 By Annie Dankelson

Campus pantry bags

Photo by Stephanie S. Cordle

Dining Services employees Michael Norman (left) and Larry Tumlin unload preassembled bags of food at the Campus Pantry in March 2020, when the facility's clientele tripled in the wake of the pandemic and widespread shutdowns. A new contribution of more than $400,000 from the Student Government Association includes about $300,000 to support the Campus Pantry.

For the second time this academic year, the Student Government Association (SGA) is awarding more than $400,000 in surplus funds to University of Maryland organizations, it announced today. The new funding will target food insecurity, boost student services and provide jobs on campus.

Along with an additional $300,000 reserved to expand the budget for student groups over the next three years, the SGA has exceeded $1 million in allocations in 2020-21 to support Terps facing financial, academic, emotional and physical challenges due to the pandemic.

The surplus is a result of decreased campus operations during COVID-19; in previous years, the SGA typically used the money collected from student fees to award hundreds of modest grants for student groups’ events, travel, speakers and conferences. 

“It shows what students can do when we’re thinking wisely about the situation we’ve been put in as a result of the pandemic,” said SGA President Dan Alpert ’21. “We’re able to give back to students in unique ways and support initiatives that really do move Maryland forward.”

Roughly $300,000 will go to Dining Services to support the Campus Pantry, which provides free nonperishable and fresh ingredients to members of the UMD community who are food-insecure. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Campus Pantry saw a dramatic increase in visits, at one point nearly tripling its pre-coronavirus usage.

The new funding will support 17 student jobs in the Pantry and extended service hours. For the last year, the Pantry has been open one or two days a week; now, said Colleen Wright-Riva, director of Dining Services, the aim is for the space to be open five days a week—a previous goal of Dining Services that the pandemic delayed. (An expansion of the Campus Pantry in the South Campus Dining Hall is slated for a soft launch in June and a full opening in Fall 2021.)

The SGA “really stepped up in a time when the resources we expected to put toward (the Pantry) aren’t there anymore because of the pandemic,” said Wright-Riva. “It’s a blessing. They’re leaving a legacy for the students that come behind them.”

The employment opportunities come at a time when many students might be in need, and also give Terps a chance to gain experience in public service and client relations, she said.

The SGA also allocated $50,000 to the Student Crisis Fund, which provides emergency financial assistance to help Terps pay for food, rent and other necessities. Applications spiked after the pandemic hit, and the fund has since awarded more than 3,300 grants totaling over $1.8 million.

Demand has dipped since COVID’s peak, but the fund still averages around 100 applications per week, said Sarah Williamson, the Division of Student Affairs’ events and special projects manager. She’s hopeful that the SGA’s latest contribution will help the fund continue awarding grants through the end of the semester and beyond.

“The Crisis Fund is completely donor-supported—we’re really at the whim of the Terps in the community to help us,” Williamson said. “We’re just grateful that the SGA has agreed to continue to provide us with funding and support our mission.”

In December, the SGA passed a similar bill allocating $410,249 for student services, with the bulk of the money going to the Student Crisis Fund. 

The new allocation of $407,540 will also support the following causes:

  • $20,000 to fund post-COVID engagement grants for student groups seeking to enhance student connectivity;
  • $16,000 to provide free emergency contraceptives at the University Health Center over the next two years; 
  • $12,500 to provide students with innovative technologies that support the improvement of mental health;
  • $6,700 to help create a pilot summer program tailored to first-generation/low-income students, along with 30 student jobs; 
  • $1,600 to support a student coordinator for local nonprofit and community service connections.

Maryland Today is produced by the Office of Strategic Communications for the University of Maryland community weekdays during the academic year, except for university holidays.