The evolution of the M.U.L.E. Cabinet, two years after its inception

Muhlenberg's student-run pantry has and will continue to make several changes to their modes of operation.

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The M.U.L.E. Cabinet is located in the basement of Seegers to the left of the Bookstore. Photo courtesy of Ayden Levine.

Located in the basement of Seegers Union, tucked away from the crowds of students is Muhlenberg’s food pantry, the M.U.L.E. (Muhlenberg Useful Living Essentials) Community Cabinet. The Cabinet began its work in 2019, with a mission to provide students experiencing food or resource insecurity with the supplies they need. 

Two years have passed since the Cabinet’s opening and in that time it has continued to develop. Rev. Jannelle Neubauer, faculty advisor to the Cabinet and college chaplain, posed the question, “Now that we have the Community Cabinet, our hope and focus is: how do we keep encouraging the Cabinet to expand, to reach out, to meet the needs of different varying student bodies?”

The aspect of inclusivity is paramount in the minds of those operating the Cabinet. Neubauer noted that, “The cabinet is recognizing how different students have different needs, between on-campus students and off-campus, or especially MILE students.” This is evident in the range of provisions offered by the pantry.

Textured hair products, food that accommodates a variety of dietary restrictions and cleaning supplies are just some of the offerings added by the Cabinet in an effort to cater to the entire student body. Frozen meals provided by Red Door Catering is another newer item in the Cabinet’s line-up, one that enables students to have a more balanced meal compared to the pre-packaged alternatives. 

Neubauer commented that the Cabinet “has evolved from just being food-oriented to also recognizing the hygiene needs of students and that students need cleaning supplies because living in MILE housing you have to clean for yourself. That’s an added cost that you don’t necessarily consider upfront.” 

“The cabinet is recognizing how different students have different needs, between on-campus students and off-campus, or especially MILE students.”

The Cabinet is currently experiencing a transition in administration. Neubauer took over her position from the previous chaplain, Rev. Kristen Glass Perez, last July. In regards to the student leadership, Krystal Hall ‘21, the Cabinet’s student founder, is currently training Summer Whitley ‘24 to become the sole student director in the upcoming semesters.

Whitley’s current responsibilities include running the Cabinet for two out of the three days of operation and keeping track of inventory through the Cabinet’s weighing system. Whitley intends to carry out the Community Cabinet’s existing values saying, “My wish is for the M.U.L.E. Cabinet to become a more accessible, sustainable resource for those who attend this college. No one should have to sacrifice their food/hygiene security to be able to live on campus, and I hope that we grow to encompass—and continue to provide—materials that students need.” 

The Community Cabinet is expanding their reach not only through the materials they provide but also through their collaboration with other groups on campus. Challah for Hunger is one of the organizations that is looking to aid the Community Cabinet in their efforts. Neubauer explained that, “We’re trying to work on a survey between Challah for Hunger [and] the M.U.L.E. Cabinet…in order to get more information to continue evolving the Cabinet.” According to Neubauer, the results of the survey may produce a broader range of offerings and even possibly an additional satellite pantry, depending on the wishes of the student body.

“My wish is for the M.U.L.E. Cabinet to become a more accessible, sustainable resource for those who attend this college. No one should have to sacrifice their food/hygiene security to be able to live on campus, and I hope that we grow to encompass—and continue to provide—materials that students need.”

The M.U.L.E. Community Cabinet, located in Seegers Union Room 059, is open on Wednesdays from 5-7 p.m, Fridays from 1-3 p.m., and Saturdays from 11-2 p.m. If a student is not available at those times, they can email mulecabinet@muhlenberg.edu to set up a private appointment. Donations can be made either by individuals or organizations by sending an email to the aforementioned address. Only new, unopened items will be accepted.

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