Latino Studies opens La Tiendita, donation-supported resource center

Lauren Grobe

Students can now pick up food, toiletries and paper goods from La Tiendita, a recently opened resource pantry in the Gloria Anzaldúa activities student room within the Gordon-White Building.

Mallory Laurel, director of communications and outreach for the Center for Mexican American Studies, said a donation-based pantry was founded about two years ago inside a closet in the building after she noticed a need among students, particularly Latinx students from low-income families, for food and other necessities.

“We’re here to uplift the students in our community to make sure we’re helping them more easily get through the college experience,” Laurel said. 

La Tiendita was created to help students who struggle to pay for food and household necessities which Laurel said can be considered “luxuries” on a tight budget. The items currently provided include snacks, dish soap, deodorant and toilet paper.

Laurel said the pantry moved to the Anzaldúa student lounge from a closet in the building to make the items more accessible for students. She said the name La Tiendita was chosen to make students more comfortable when picking up donations.

“We renamed it this year to rebrand it so that it was less stigmatized,” Laurel said. “We thought calling it La Tiendita would increase its usage.”

La Tiendita started with Latino studies staff bringing in donated items and students could request what they needed, said Katy Buchanan, administrative manager for the Department of Mexican American and Latino/a Studies. Buchanan said the staff wanted to move the pantry more into the open so that the supply did not feel like “a secret.” 

To stock what is necessary, Laurel said the staff is keeping track of items students take the most and regularly restocking La Tiendita with those items. 

“Students find themselves in a situation where they have to decide between buying materials for class or getting basic necessities,” Laurel said.

La Tiendita will be joining other efforts on campus to address food insecurity, such as UT Outpost, a food pantry and career closet made available by Student Emergency Services. UT Outpost coordinator Will Ross said 1 in 4 students at the University struggle with food insecurity.

“The campus cares about (food insecurity,)” Ross said. “There’s a lot of effort being made to address this.” 

Laurel said the stigma surrounding food need is one obstacle to making sure students get the resources they need. Just like La Tiendita, Ross said UT Outpost’s name was chosen to reflect the open environment of the pantry and help students feel comfortable.

There are several resources on campus, such as La Tiendita, UT Outpost, the Gender and Sexuality Center’s food pantry and other services. However, Ariel Juarez, radio-television-film sophomore, said they think students still struggle with asking for help when it comes to money troubles.

“I’ve had times that I have asked friends to just buy some food for me, which adds on to the embarrassment and stress from classes,” Juarez said.

Juarez said La Tiendita and other pantries help students like them and their friends feel more at ease. 

“It’s been hard not just for myself, but for other friends to not have sufficient money,” Juarez said. “It just goes to rent.”

Editor's Note: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Mallory Laurel founded the pantry. The Texan regrets this error.