By Jennifer Robertson
The AC food pantry is a program developed to reach out to students who may be struggling to make ends meet by providing grocery and hygiene products. It has become a valuable resource for students needing assistance.
The “Achieving the Dream, No Excuses” initiative, which addresses obstacles preventing students from finishing their education, motivated Karen Logan, a communications and theater administrative clerk, and Lynae’ Jacob, chairwoman of the communication and theater department, to launch the food pantry program on the Washington Street Campus.
The food pantry was established to help students who may be struggling with poverty, but any students who find themselves in unexpected financial predicaments can benefit from the program.
“If you had an unexpected medical bill, your child is sick or your car broke down, that expense can make it difficult to buy food,” Logan said. “If you have to decide between putting gas in your car or buying groceries, we want to fill in that gap and help out until the students can make it.”
The pantry has provided food for up to 200 students since opening its doors in February 2012. The pantry now serves around 50 students a month.
Students can choose their own items based on their need. A typical bag of groceries contains nonperishable food items, breakfasts, snack foods and toiletries. Baby food and formula can be provided for students with young children.
Logan said the pantry is not serving its purpose if students do not use it.
“There’s no reason to be ashamed or embarrassed,” she said. “We have all needed help, and college is a common time to need help.”
Leah Vessel, a dental hygiene major and food pantry assistant, said she knows students who have benefited from the program.
As food pantry coordinator, Logan said “regular, sustainable support is needed” to keep the pantry well- stocked. More donations are made during the holidays, but contributions wane in the summer months.
Logan said large donations can be picked up but that smaller donations should be dropped off in the bin at room 204 on the second floor of Parcells Hall on the Washington Street Campus.
The West Campus food pantry, located in 251 Jones Hall, opened last fall. The East Campus food pantry, located in the Student Service Center, opened this month.
Rebecca Archer, executive secretary to Lyndy Wilkinson, dean of technical education, recommended the food pantry program for the East Campus.
“The Washington Street Campus brought out a starter kit, and then we ordered some food from the food bank,“ Archer said. “We received cash contributions, and then we had a food drive. We’re stocked and ready; now we just need students to know about it.”
Fliers and emails informed people on campus about the new food pantry. Bins were set up all over the East Campus so donations can easily be made.
“The vocational nursing students expressed the desire to start the pantry,” Connie Lax, a West Campus vocational nursing staff assistant, said in an email. “They went to work, and with the many generous donations of time and supplies, it has been a great success! We serve approximately 25 families a month.”
After a food drive last year, the West Campus pantry was able to give out an extra bag of food to families during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. Lax said the food pantry plans to give extra food again this year to provide a special Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner.
Any currently enrolled student can pick up a bag of groceries at any of the three locations. There are no other qualifying conditions other than to take the initiative to ask for the help if it is needed.
Donations of nonperishable food and hygiene products are readily accepted. Tax-deductible monetary donations can be made through the AC Foundation to benefit the food pantry. Anyone making a contribution should specify that it is for the food pantry.