With Thanksgiving, Christmas and Hanukkah within sight, the demands on the new MTSU Student Food Pantry could be challenging.
If collections to date are any indication, however, the campus community is more than willing to fill the need.
The pantry is tucked away inside closet space within the University College Advising Center in the McFarland Building and contains some 800 pounds of food already.
“Any active, currently enrolled student can come and access the food pantry,” said Becca Seul, a University College advisor who manages the pantry. “They don’t have to be referred to us. They can just come on over.”
Seul is focusing, however, on homeless students and students who have just emerged from foster care, especially those who lack the necessary support to make it on their own.
Seul verifies homeless students for the Office of Financial Aid and has documented 67 homeless students and 74 foster-care students since March 2011.
“If a student is at that point where they’re actually going to come and say, ‘Hey, I need help,’ then that need has, typically, gotten pretty far,” Seul said.
The pantry shelves contain everything from green beans to microwave popcorn. Seul suggested that donors focus on nonperishable items suited to college students.
“We do have a lot of ramen and a lot of ravioli,” she noted. “The easy-open cans are better because (the students) may or may not have a can opener.”
Everything donated in bulk is broken up into individual components so as many students as possible may benefit.
While Seul holds the keys to the canned cabbage and cranberry juice, the pantry is a partnership between the University College Advising Center and the Student Government Association. The SGA is handling marketing, launching food drives and reaching out to students who may be reluctant to come forward.
The newest drive is this week, Oct. 22-27, as the SGA sponsors “Fill the MT.” A large wooden “MT” container is set up inside the Student Government Association office, located in Room 306 in the Student Union Building, for contributions to the Student Food Pantry and to Journey Home of Murfreesboro
The student food-pantry idea originated last fall, but it did not come to fruition until spring 2012. The SGA passed legislation last spring to create a pantry, but it did not have a physical location. With the UCAC’s facilities, the partnership seemed ideal.
The Student Food Pantry also has contacts with Greenhouse Ministries; the Murfreesboro Housing Authority; Lambda Sigma, the freshman honors fraternity; and Generation Next, the living-learning community of first-generation college students living in Cummings Hall.
Even the James E. Walker Library is providing food. Through Oct. 31, library patrons also may donate food items in a large box in the first-floor atrium as part of the “Stock the Student Food Pantry” drive.
“It’s not a grocery store,” Seul emphasized. “It’s for students struggling to find a meal.”
The MTSU Student Food Pantry is open from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. It will be closed Thursday and Friday, Nov. 22 and 23, for the Thanksgiving holiday and will reopen Monday, Nov. 26. The pantry also will be closed Dec. 24-Jan. 1, 2013.
– Gina K. Logue (Gina.Logue@mtsu.edu)