We approached our local food bank for their insight and assistance. The result is student only access to the Bloomsburg Food Cupboard on Mondays from 5 to 6 p.m., most weeks during the fall and spring semesters. (Students tend to have food from home or other resources at the beginning of the term.)
This program has been very beneficial for our students, both those who use the service and in creating a heightened social awareness for the greater university community. Weekly, anywhere from a handful to a few dozen students take advantage of this resource. We decided against any income verification process or anything else that could create a barrier to students in need. Our goal continues to be straightforward and simple – feeding students who do not have enough to eat.
Along the way, we’re making improvements. For example, one volunteer noticed that the Food Cupboard regularly stocked ingredients to make chili, yet the students didn’t know how to cook it. So, the volunteer made copies of a recipe and sent it the following week. Another noticed students looking at a head of cabbage, but not selecting it. When asked, the students responded saying that they didn’t know how to make it like their grandmothers. After a few questions, the students had instructions and went home with heads of cabbage.
In addition to the Student Night at the Food Cupboard, emergency food bags are available to students in several offices – Dean of Students, Student Health Center, TRiO Student Support Services, Multicultural Affairs, Women’s Resource Center, and Academic Enrichment, and the Student Affairs office. These bags contain a variety of non-perishables and students just need to ask for them to receive them.
The team working on this initiative is very conscientious and thought of details like, providing sandwich bags of hotel-sized toiletries or making sure a variety of shopping bags are stocked at the Food Cupboard, so students don’t unintentionally reveal where they were as they walk home. When the Food Cupboard learned the patrons needed can openers, the Dean of Students Office purchased them to be distributed to our students and the community members.
The students who use these services span demographics – they are male, female, white and students of color, and live in both rural and urban areas. Sometimes, individuals hold stereotypes of college students – or more sadly – of college students in need. Our student participants defy these stereotypes.
Our students are grateful for these resources. They don’t understand that we are also grateful for them. If they were not coming forward, we wouldn’t have an opportunity to help them. If this effort helps students focus on their studies, we’re fulfilling our mission as an institution of higher education.
We’re still in need of volunteer assistance for the Hungry Huskies Initiative. If you’re on campus, there are a variety of food drives that assist the Food Cupboard. If you’re off campus, the Food Cupboard accepts cash donations. To volunteer at the BU Student night, please contact Student Affairs at firstname.lastname@example.org or 570-389-4063.
— Dione D. Somerville, vice president for student affairs