Tarleton State University creates food pantry to serve students, staff

Mia Nickerson, student worker in Tarleton's Barry B. Thompson Student Center, stocks shelves at the food pantry with donated items. The Tarleton Food Pantry expects to open to students and staff on Aug. 7.

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STEPHENVILLE (July 17, 2015) — Tarleton State University will open a food pantry this fall to serve students and staff who find themselves uncertain where their next meal is coming from.

The Tarleton Food Pantry—a collaboration of the university’s Student Success & Multicultural Initiatives, the Division of Student Life and other campus groups, including H.O.P.E. Inc.—will open its doors Aug. 7, just ahead of Transition Week, when incoming freshmen arrive before the start of the fall semester.

The goal is to make healthy, nourishing food available to students who might otherwise not have enough to eat, helping them stay enrolled and enjoy academic success.

Although it’s difficult to track how many college students face food insecurity, data from a recent report by the nation’s largest emergency food service network, Feeding America, suggests that the number is at least in the millions in America.

According to the report, roughly 10 percent of the 46.5 million clients who get help from food banks are students, including some two million enrolled in college full time. Nearly one-third of those included in the survey reported that they’ve had to choose between buying food and covering educational expenses.

“Tarleton faculty and staff are excited about the new food bank,” said Dr. Lora Helvie-Mason, director of Diversity & Inclusion programs. “Many already keep healthy snacks in their office to make sure students are fed, not hungry, and ready to perform at their best.

“While there are several resources available in the Stephenville community, not all students have transportation to take advantage of them,” she explained. “Providing a centralized location on campus for students facing food insecurity makes perfect sense.”

Helvie-Mason said the need is greatest just before Transition Week when student meal-plan cards are being activated and during holidays. “Not all Tarleton students go home during school breaks,” she said. “In addition, some students don’t make enough from part-time work to supplement their meal plan. The Tarleton Food Pantry will ensure students have plenty to eat regardless of the reason.

“Students often are hesitant to share their need, but they’ll show up at events that include free food,” she pointed out. “We’ve followed this pattern of behavior to get a better handle on student needs and to develop the best ways to help.”

The Tarleton Food Pantry will rely on donations of food and money. In the future, faculty and staff can include monetary donations to the pantry as part of their annual giving to the university.

Located in the Barry B. Thompson Student Center, Room 103-A, adjacent to the Information Desk, the pantry will be open from 1 to 6 p.m. weekdays during the pilot phase and staffed by volunteers. Non-perishable, dorm-friendly food items can be dropped off between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. at the Information Desk and at the Office of Diversity & Inclusion on the Student Center’s lower level. Additional drop-off locations are in the works.

Suggested items include: tuna or chicken (canned or pouches); peanut and almond butter; fruit cups and cans of fruit that do not need refrigeration; dried fruit; applesauce; granola, protein, cereal bars, fruit strips and popcorn; nuts and crackers; canned/microwavable soups, chili, rice and pasta; oatmeal and dry cereal; pudding cups; and packaged muffins.

Checks can be made to Tarleton State University, noting “Food Pantry” in the memo, and mailed to: Tarleton State University – Office of Diversity & Inclusion, Box T-0490, Stephenville, Texas 76402.

For more information about the Tarleton Food Pantry, call 254-968-9488 or email diversity@tarleton.edu.

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