Simmons REEF Center Opens Community Resource Room


Photos courtesy of the REEF Center

Grace Tamborella, Contributing Writer

The Simmons Community Resource Room opened on September 9, 2022. The space is dedicated to providing food and household products to all Simmons students for free. 

 The CRR is located in the REEF Support Center (Resilience, Efficacy, and Empowerment, through Foundational support services) on the ground floor of the Main College Building. According to their website, the REEF Center centralizes resources for students. 

In the CRR, both Undergraduate and Graduate students are supplied with nonperishable food items, snacks, school supplies, period products, and hygiene products. 

Meredith LaMalva, a political science major and a Food Advocate for the CRR helps to make sure students’ information is kept private. Food Advocates are student workers that take inventory, pack orders, and process donations. When packing orders, names are never shared and orders go by order number only, which is stated in the confirmation email students receive after making an order. 

Matoaka Kipp is the inaugural Director of the REEF Support Center and a Simmons Alum. Kipp provides direct support for students through meetings and creating programs tailored to student support. 

Kipp emphasized that the CRR is “for everybody who eats,” and that the resource room is a “tool for community care.” By the week of September 23rd, 175 people had registered using the Community Resource Room Registration Form.

LaMalva said she “likes having a job where you can see the impact.” She also thinks it’s a great resource that students didn’t have before. “It’s really cool to see how everyone is using it and how it’s helping,” she said. 

EriKa Monfort, the Director of the Multicultural Center, and a member of the Community Resource Room Committee noted that getting to college is a big milestone, but students still need support. 

Monfort said that some students with marginalized identities can have busy schedules between working and being a student full-time, as well as being caretakers in their homes. She also noted limitations to the support already available, such as the short dining hall hours. 

The CRR itself is new this year, but its concept is not. “It truly has been the labor of many many generations of students faculty, and staff,” said Kipp.

Kipp started to interview students and student leaders about food insecurity on campus. Then, the Community Resource Committee and Community Resource Student Committee were created alongside the proposal for the CRR. 

Monfort recalled her visit to Bunkerhill Community College’s DISH Food Pantry (Deliver Information, Sustenance, and Health) to review their services  DISH works to break barriers associated with food insecurity local to their college. Bunkerhill Community College aided Monfort in understanding how their food pantry was functioning well.

Prior to the creation of the Center the Simmons community was surveyed and asked questions about their access to food and household items. They were also asked what items they would like offered and how they would want the CRR to operate. The survey received 249 responses.

Kipp also held “food and feedback” sessions. These sessions helped review the survey answers and discuss what the Community Resource Room should look like.  

According to Kipp, the CRR is continuously revising and adding different means of support to best serve students. Alongside the Career Center, they are starting a program where students can rent clothes for interviews. The CRR is also providing students with $40 vouchers to Goodwill for necessities this winter. 

Monfort wants students to be able to use the resource without feelings of shame or discomfort. “It’s hard to ask for help, especially for something as real as food,” she said, “because the assumption is you made it to college you should be able to X, Y, and Z.” 

De-stigmatizing systemic barriers of asking for help is important to Monfort. “[The Community Resource Room] is one piece of a larger puzzle that we’re able to begin bridging,” she said. 

In order to access the CRR, students must first complete the yearly Community Resource Room Registration Form. Then, students can place their order using the CRR Online Order Form

Orders can be placed once a month and are available for pick up in the Main College Building, across from the Simmons University Bookstore. If an emergency order is necessary, students can email to be connected with additional food support.