The Falcon Bazaar Provides Students with Necessities During the Pandemic

The+Falcon+Bazaar+provides+food+and+other+supplies+to+students+in+need.+Photo+courtesy+of+Shane+Franzen.

The Falcon Bazaar provides food and other supplies to students in need. Photo courtesy of Shane Franzen.

-Brittany Eldridge

Students at Fitchburg State have a lot on their plates right now: from paying bills and keeping up with course work, to coping with social isolation and anxiety associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.These students may also be struggling to obtain the food, toiletries, and other necessities they need. The Office of Student Development has resources that can help struggling students, especially during these uncertain times when students may find themselves unemployed and isolated from others.

These resources include the Falcon Bazaar and Swipe it Forward. The Falcon Bazaar is located in Hammond Hall room G-15. The Bazaar holds walk-in hours from 9:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M. Monday through Friday, according to the Fitchburg State website. Students can also book an appointment, if necessary. The Swipe it Forward program allows students on a meal plan at Fitchburg State to donate one of their swipes to a student in need. 

Shane Franzen, who has worked at Fitchburg State for over twenty years and runs the Falcon Bazaar, stated that the Bazaar is a “necessary feature.” College students tend to prioritize bills and school work over food.  He helped create the Bazaar three years ago.  

The Bazaar, according to Franzen, is mostly self-sufficient. Students donate necessary items to the Bazaar, which students in need can pick up as needed. The Bazaar stocks up on food items such as rice, bread, cereal, snack bars, cereals, and sauces. In addition, the Bazaar doles out necessities such as shampoo, conditioner, hand sanitizer, and toothpaste. 

Franzen stated that he works to ensure that the food and necessities donated to the Bazaar are representative of the Fitchburg State population. He conducts research to make sure that everyone’s needs are met. Some products that the Bazaar works to procure are gluten free and kosher foods. Spices and hot sauce are popular items that students are often shocked to find at the Bazaar. Franzen said that it is important to “think outside the box and to be inclusive of all students.”

When asked about how busy the Falcon Bazaar has been during the pandemic, Franzen said that the Bazaar has experienced a decrease in visitors. This is most likely because fewer students are on campus as a result of remote learning. Fewer students live on campus and social distancing guidelines make it more difficult for the Bazaar to operate as it used to. Currently, the Bazaar has about ten to twenty visits a month, according to Franzen. 

In addition to fewer students visiting the Bazaar, fewer students have been purchasing meal plans and many have been decreasing their meal plans. This is because students need to budget their money during the pandemic. As a result, fewer students have been able to swipe their meals forward because Swipe it Forward only applies to certain meal plans. One of the biggest changes in how the Bazaar runs is that the pantry items are shipped to campus in order to avoid unnecessary contact. The Falcon Bazaar has an Amazon wishlist on Amazon Smile. Individuals then purchase those items and ship them to campus.

Once pandemic conditions improve and more students are vaccinated, Franzen plans to hold more food drives and to once again work on the food packing program. He stated that, in the past, the Falcon Bazaar donated 4,000 meals to United Way. 

Franzen is also starting a Professional Clothing Closet for students in need. The Professional Clothing Closet will lend students formal attire, such as suits and dresses, for job interviews and internships. The Student Development Office is collaborating with Career Services to make the Professional Clothing Closet available. Franzen stated that having this attire available is necessary for students’ success in entering the workforce.

Students with an interest in helping out students in need can reach out to the Fitchburg State Volunteer Center. The Fitchburg State website describes the Volunteer Center as being “established to help organizational charities empower people to build a better community and maximize collaboration between Fitchburg State, the community, and its constituents.” The Volunteer Center can be reached by email at [email protected] The volunteer center is working to incorporate volunteering opportunities into the various academic programs at the college. Franzen also mentioned that Fitchburg State included “working on giving back to the community” in its strategic plan.

Students in need of support during the pandemic can reach out to the Student Development Office and can inquire about the resources available to them. Franzen said many students at Fitchburg State are eligible for food assistance programs, such as SNAP and WIC, but they are not aware of this. Fitchburg State offers a scholarship for housing insecure students, as well.