Students from Central Magnet School’s Beta Club presented record one-time donations of nonperishable food and money to the MTSU Student Food Pantry Thursday, Jan. 29, following a recent food drive.
In just a week, Central students collected 7,000-plus cans of food and raised $2,600 to help the pantry restock its shelves. Thursday afternoon, MTSU staff brought a truck to pick up the donations from the grade 6-12 magnet school, which is operated by Rutherford County Schools and located on East Main Street, a few blocks west of the MTSU campus.
Becca Seul, student pantry founder and a coordinator at MT One Stop, said Central’s donation is quite timely. The pantry, which is located inside MT One Stop on the second floor of the Student Services and Admissions Center, “has been hit hard with visitors” following MTSU’s holiday break and return of students.
“We’ve seen close to 100 students already since we reopened,” Seul said. “The donation from CMS is the largest one-time donation in our history! These canned goods will help keep us stocked for quite some time. In addition, the monetary donation is also the largest of its kind so far by any one group.”
The Beta Club is a student service organization made up of high-achieving students that has chapters across the nation. Central’s club has about 200 members, with about 80 of those coordinating in the food drive.
Erin Alvarado, librarian and media specialist at Central and a co-sponsor of the Beta Club, said a mother of one of the Central students suggested the MTSU pantry as a community service project. Beta Club students must fulfill 10 hours of community service work above the 25 hours required of all Central students before graduation, Alvarado said.
“It’s really inspiring. It’s great to have the kind of students that just want to serve. They’re really interested in helping other people,” Alvarado said. “It was kind of overwhelming to see all of the donations and the amount of cans that were collected.”
Started two years ago, the MTSU Student Food Pantry is available for free to any currently enrolled student who shows a valid student ID. Students who are between paychecks or whose campus meal plans have run out typically use the pantry.
Since the pantry opened two years ago, it has been visited more than 1,000 times and has had over 22,000 pound of food — and counting — donated. Monetary donations are critical as well.
“We can use these funds to purchase other needed items for the pantry, like breakfast cereals, granola bars, macaroni and cheese, shelf-stable milk and other beverages,” Seul said. “MTSU is so thankful for the generosity of our community, and we hope that all of the CMS students that have participated in this food drive will soon be a part of our Blue Raider family.”
Beta Club member Matthew Connors, a sophomore, said he and other club members recognized that food pantries have high demand during the holiday season and need to be replenished with the start of a new year.
“We decided to do a food drive to kind of restock the shelves,” he said. “It’s a cool feeling to know that we’ve done something like this.”
Fellow Beta Club member Baylee Hayes, also a sophomore, said the food drive lasted about a week. The club collected the cans during fifth period classes and reached out to parents interested in participating as well.
Last weekend, the club wrapped up the drive by holding a variety show on campus in which a donation of three cans of nonperishable food was requested for entry.
“I knew it was something that the food pantry really needed,” Hayes said. “It was very inspirational to know that our school could come together to do this, to help out.”
MTSU Student Government Association President Andrew George, who stopped by to help load the truck, applauded the “amazing job” Central students had done to support the MTSU students who need a helping hand on occasion.
“Now students are able to access food whenever they need to,” George said. “With the amount of cans that we have right now, I know that it will be plenty for the rest of the semester. Big shout-out to Central Magnet.”
People can drop off donations anytime the MT One Stop is open: Monday-Thursday, 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. MT One Stop is located on the east side of campus at MTSU Boulevard and Blue Raider Drive, with visitor parking available off MTSU Boulevard.
Those wishing to help monetarily can also donate online at www.mtsu.edu/foodpantry. The pantry now has an MTSU Foundation account, which allows Seul to stock up on items available in bulk at less cost.
For more information, contact Seul at 615-494-8910 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.mtsu.edu/foodpantry.
— Jimmy Hart (email@example.com)