ABOVE: The campus food pantry allows students of any age, organization or year to come by and grab a bag of food. Started in the fall of 2018, the food pantry offers many shelf stable foods for hungry students to take. Some foods include peanut butter, crackers, rice, cereal, canned goods and many other foods. (Taylor Rodriguez/Staff photographer)
By Taylor Rodriguez
College cafeterias across the country provide access to one of the basic necessities that all students require to succeed: nourishment.
Besides being a place for students to meet daily and develop their social skills, cafeterias are where a majority of students go to get their daily dose of the food pyramid building blocks.
Often, universities provide meal plans that students can pick from. If one student only wants 10 meals a week to save money but another student wants 17 a week, they have that choice. But, what does a student do if they live off-campus or can’t afford a meal plan?
As of Fall 2018, it was obvious that there was a need for a food pantry on our campus. Some staff and faculty saw a rise in “food insecurity” for some students at SC. This gave way to the creation of a food pantry committee.
Started by a few staff and faculty members, the food pantry has grown and now has a location on the top floor of Sutton Hall. Sarah Hallinan, director of residence life, is one of the members that helps maintain the food pantry.
“It’s a resource that a student can use if they find themselves not having enough food to eat,” said Hallinan. “Also, we see a need for this over breaks. So like spring break, Thanksgiving break, fall break, that kind of stuff when the cafeteria is closed.”
The food pantry committee consists of nine members, including Hallinan. Some other members include Terah York, student accounts coordinator, Linda Weipper, associate vice president for academic administration operations, Melinda Current, clinical education coordinator, Ed Lobe, professor of mathematics and Anjaih Clemons, director of campus life.
Southwestern’s food pantry is available to students 24 hours a day, seven days a week. However, the office is only open from eight to five, Monday through Friday.
If a student finds themselves without food outside that timeframe, a security officer can assist them in retrieving some food from the pantry. Security’s number is located on the backside of your student ID card.
According to Dan Falk, vice president of student affairs, the food pantry already seems to be a big help to students in need.
“We have students bring their student ID and we have a sign-in sheet. I was looking at the sign-in sheet the other day, we’ve helped 30 to 35 different students so far since the spring semester,” said Falk.
The food available has been provided through donations from individuals around the college. Most of the funding has been through charitable donations to the college. Every month, or two, members of the committee take turns going to Walmart to stock up on supplies for the pantry.
The pantry also benefits from monetary donations. Steve Kramer, assistant director for advising and student success, had some more information about the food pantry.
“We have had a food drive that was done by student life last year. I think we also accept donations through institutional advancement,” said Kramer.
Other groups on campus had provided some leg work before the creation of the food pantry. According to Hallinan, there was a student group in one of Southwestern’s service-learning teams, Leadership, that did some preliminary research on the topic.
Kramer said, “The school has also contributed some funds to ensure students have the food that they need. We were surprised to see how many students there were that had some sort of food scarcity.”
The campus food pantry will be available to all students for the foreseeable future. All that is required is your student ID. They even provide a bag to carry out your food in.
There are limits on the amount of food one can take from the pantry, but there are serving suggestions for each of the types of food. Hallinan provided some more info about the kinds of foods the pantry offers.
“We try to keep things that are more shelf-stable so that they last longer. We also thought about how some students might not have a microwave or a refrigerator or may not have kitchens, so we try to get items that are easy to prepare without heat. So, peanut butter, crackers, those kinds of things,” said Hallinan.
Despite being new, the committee wants to grow the pantry as the students’ needs increase. More student needs will result in more food being available.
Hallinan mentioned that she is willing to take food requests from students. This can include foods that are preferred like ramen noodles cups or specific cereals. There is a food suggestion sheet at the food pantry, or you can contact Hallinan at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Food is hugely important. If you don’t have your basic necessities met, it’s hard to be a successful student. So if you don’t have a roof over your head, have the food you need, you’re not gonna be able to focus in the classroom,” said Hallinan. “We just need to make sure the students are taken care of, and this is one of the very basic needs. It’s so important that students have food.”