I heard about Adam via a pal Lillymae, who was telling me about this wonderful start up - The Student Pantry. I just thought what an amazing idea, thinking it had been set up by an Irish mammy/modern day parent hero mythical creature that I had drummed up in my head. Surprise surprise, it was in fact set up by a budding astrophysicist called Adam Mullins from Donegal, with the help of FoodCloud & a lot of other legendary volunteers from the University of Galway. Golden rule: when you start to complain about our current day young wans, never underestimate the amazing thoughtful, beautiful & powerful humans they become… Please enjoy this. Namaste Jess Murphy.
J.Tell me about the student pantry. How did it get going?
A. I'm from Donegal originally and I have grown up in a community workspace my whole life, my nana was a manager of the community centre and then my mom became one and she had the idea to launch the initiative of what we are doing now - a Community Pantry. There are other charities that will receive food, for homeless people or for different causes like that, whereas we were receiving it to redirect it to anybody who wanted it. In terms of food waste, this is one; going to save them money. And two; everything would be going in the bin otherwise. Then, I moved to Galway and I was here for a year and I said; ‘Jesus mom, I'm in the city and I just know there's nothing like what we're doing back at home down here and it's all going in the bin and it's ridiculous!’ We're in a city where it's hustle and bustle, things are moving forward but it's not moving forward at all. So I asked; is there a way I could do what we do at home at the college? And she said, that is actually a great idea, we should look into it!
J. Yeah, people are going to college and are starving.
A. It's ridiculous. I figured that if I'm paying 3.5 grand to college, I shouldn't have to then pay to avail of a service within the college. So something I always worked towards was that it has to be free and that's how it is. At the moment, it's just students showing up and they get their food for free.
J. What stories have you heard? We've all heard of starving students, so the pantry must be beneficial to everybody, especially considering Galway rent.
A. Yeah, it is crazy. In the last few years it's gone up and up and up, making it more difficult for students. There's a lot of students who come to us and say, this will be the first proper meal I've had this week and stuff like that. Or they'll discuss the fact, they were scraping by until they started coming to this and now they can save up for whatever they might need.
J. What's the collection process like? Do you drive to a supermarket and they have a pallet ready for you?
A. I get a text. I'll click to accept that and then I will go and drive up to that shop later on, go into their back door where their lorry would usually drop off their food and ring their doorbell. And then someone comes and it’s here's your box or boxes of food. Typically, we receive a pallet every week from the FoodCloud Warehouse in Galway and that usually ranges between 200kg and 500kg. Throughout the week, depending on how good the collections are, I could collect anywhere between 400kg and 800kg of food. So, we get through a load of food and we aim toward zero waste. In terms of whatever good (quality) food we get, we very rarely have any leftovers at the end of the day.
J. That's amazing! Obviously it's so beneficial for students as well because we have learnt that there's a correlation between being hungry and learning..
A. Oh and depression or malnutrition and stuff like that. Even if they're not hungry because they're eating loads of pasta, they could still be really struggling because they're not getting the vitamins and nutrients they need. So we aim to really try and say, look, this food is here, I know you might not love carrots but why don't you have your carrots tonight as well? Just to add a bit more variation to your diet.
J. Is the Student Pantry in the University of Galway?
A. Yes. We're in the handover process at the moment because we initially had zero funding, and I spent about €5000 of my own money last year on fuel and expenses to keep it up and running. As of this year, the society's office within the university said, ‘we want to back you in whatever way possible’, so they bought the fridges and freezers, and they let me work in their space. At the moment, that’s what I’m still using, but the Student’s Union and the university are retrofitting a room within the university which will become the Student Pantry for the rest of its existence and it'll have all built-in fridges and freezers, and store shelves and everything we need.
RECIPE - Student Pantry Granola
- 3 cups old-fashioned oats
- 2/3 cup nuts (such as peanuts, sliced almonds, chopped pecans, or a mix)
- 1/3 cup natural smooth peanut butter
- 1/4 cup honey
- 3 tablespoons melted coconut oil
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 3/4 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- optional: 1/3 cup unsweetened flaked coconut
- optional: 1/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips
- optional: sliced fruit (bananas, strawberries, etc.)
1. Heat oven to 325°F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Combine oats and nuts in a large mixing bowl. Set aside.
3. In a separate bowl, stir together the peanut butter, honey, coconut oil, vanilla, salt and cinnamon. Heat briefly in the microwave (for 20-30 seconds) or in a small saucepan (over medium heat for 3-4 minutes) until warm, but not bubbly. Stir again until smooth.
4. Pour the peanut butter mixture over the oats mixture, and stir until evenly combined.
5. Spread the granola out evenly on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 25 minutes, stirring once halfway through, and keeping an eye on the granola to ensure that it doesn’t burn. Remove the pan from the oven, sprinkle the coconut on top, and give the mixture a good stir. Bake for 4-5 more minutes, or until the granola is lightly toasted and golden.
6. Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire baking rack. Let the granola cool until it reaches room temperature. Then stir in the chocolate chips (if using), and any other optional add-ins you might prefer.
7. Serve immediately, or store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 month.
All photos by Ciarán MacChoncarraige
Words by Jess Murphy