ESU and St. Matthew’s Church Offer Food Pantry for Students Who Are “Food Insecure”
In the spring of 2016, some staff and administrators at ESU began hearing, anecdotally, of students who were going without meals; foregoing food in order to pay rent or other necessities.
Naturally this raised concern, and Nancy Weaver, Ph.D., assistant to the vice president for student affairs & office of student conduct and community standards, met with Doreen M. Tobin, D.Ed., vice president for student affairs, to look deeper into this situation. “We asked a bit more and found that even though they may have a job and are going to college, once a student prioritized his or her expenses, sometimes food was on the bottom of the list,” said Dr. Weaver.
Last June, administrators and faculty developed a survey about food insecurity. This speaks to either not having a sufficient amount of food each day, or not having nutritious choices for meals, as cheaper foods are easily available but nutritionally vacant. The survey went out to the entire student population via email blast. “We got tremendous feedback and found that there are some students who do not have the financial means to eat regularly or nutritionally. It’s disturbing,” added Weaver. “It’s extremely important that we do what we can to support them.”
The light bulb went off when ESU administrators realized that the nearby Church of St. Matthew had been seeking to interact more with students. The new ESU Catholic campus minister, Joe Sudano, said, “Throughout the summer, university administration and the Office of Student Affairs had been meeting with us at St. Matthew’s Church in an effort to create and implement a partnership and plan.”
The existing food pantry at St. Matthew’s was able to be utilized, and starting September 15, the new Warrior Food Pantry will be open on Fridays from 3-5 p.m. during the school semester, exclusively for ESU students. Those who need food who are not on campus on Fridays can also use an emergency food pantry which will be established shortly at the University Center.
For the sake of confidentiality for the students in need, the pantry will be staffed by volunteer retired faculty. The pantry is not sponsored or underwritten by any funds; in fact, said Sudano, “it runs solely on donations of non-perishable food items and volunteers’ time, and God’s grace, of course.” The pantry itself is completely non-denominational and students do not need to be a member of the parish.
It’s anonymous, and students can avail themselves of the food by showing their ESU ID; this is not to identify themselves, but just to show they are eligible, and for administrators to gauge student need.
“So far, we have boxes in 20 different buildings on campus, including residence halls to collect non-perishable food,” said Dr. Weaver. “We asked everybody to bring one food item. It could be a can of soup or green beans, a box of macaroni and cheese, or peanut butter.” Anybody who wants to help can collect food items or provide donations of funds or gift cards. “We don’t need people to sign up. We just need to get the word out,” Weaver said.
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