By CAROLINE STREETT
What started out as a curricular requirement has escalated into a project that students are pursuing outside of the classroom to create a judgement and stigma-free campus food pantry for food-insecure students.
In a three-semester course, Salisbury University’s Presidential Citizen Scholars (PCS) were assigned the task of researching a topic and then conducting a service project in cohesion with their research under the supervision and guidance of their instructor professor Lisa Howard.
“This is a project that the Presidential Citizen’s Scholars, through their own three-semester experience that they have developed and researched on their own,” Howard said. “So really my role is just to support them in their ideas and work out logistics with them and talk to them about service and help bridge connections between them and community partners, and people who would be a valuable resource to them.”
The focus of the project initially was the problem of homelessness in Salisbury, but through further research and communication with multiple sources, the students decided to center in on the issue of food insecurity.
Senior environmental studies major Michael Bowman got involved in the project through a service requirement for an environmental course, but he admits that his drive to see this project succeed is about more than just a grade – rather it’s about the real need for a food pantry on campus.
“We’ve met with various groups on campus and realized that it’s really kind of an invisible need on campus – it’s really a need that most people aren’t going to recognize or see,” Bowman said. “You don’t know who may be going through food insecurity, or is homeless, or having financial difficulty and with a food pantry we can target all these different groups of people.”
Bowman defined food insecurity as anyone who doesn’t have the access or resources to access the amount of food that they need to be healthy and live well.
To reduce the stigma and judgement surrounding the issue, the pantry will be located in the Scarborough Center on Camden Avenue. It will be close to campus but not too close so there is still a sense of anonymity.
The members plan to make the pantry open to everybody in the campus community with a no-questions-asked policy.
Junior psychology major Alexis Shank took part in the project for her service requirement and was shocked by the statistics revolving around the prevalence of food insecurity on college campuses.
“From what we researched, the statistics and data we found, this affects way more people than you would think,” Shank said. “I think we found somewhere around 40 percent of students in four-year colleges struggle with food insecurity in some way or another.”
The students have partnered with SU’s Institute for Public Affairs and Civic engagement, along with Give and Go and the Maryland Food Bank to allocate funds and donations for their projects, and they hope to make more connections this summer.
In their discussed goals for the coming months, the group members hope to raise awareness about food insecurity in the campus community along with establishing a presence on campus, collecting funds and food and recruiting more members.
In the past month the initiative to start the pantry has made major progress according to Howard, and if all goes as planned the students’ organization “Food for The Flock” will be up and running by fall 2018.
“They have gone above and beyond the call of duty,” Howard said. “They have really risen to the occasion to establishing a pantry and developing a project that’s going to have real lasting and sustainable impact.”
Featured graphic by Amy Wojtowicz.