"Hungry to learn" develops a new meaning when college students are not just suffering hunger pains, but going hungry, unable to eat in the pursuit of a college education.
Wayne State recognized students who struggle financially and have to choose between paying for food, housing or tuition. As a response to student homelessness in June 2016, WSU received a $200,000 grant from the McGregor Fund. An allocation of the grant money has paved the way to create a university food pantry.
The W is set to open April 2. To prepare, the pantry is collecting nonperishables all over campus. Businesses like Sweet Lorraine's Mac n' Brewz is offering 20 percent off any order for those who donate on site.
Psychological Services Counselor and Grant Manager Sara Byczek said the Dean of Students Office is responsible for planning and organizing the food pantry. Provost Keith Whitfield then gave Dean of Students David Strauss the task of bringing the vision of WSU’s food pantry to life.
However, Strauss named Whitfield as the real visionary behind WSU’s food pantry.
“My vision for the pantry is that it will assist students who need a little help making ends meet,” Whitfield said. “It is hard to learn when you're hungry or you’re worried your family is hungry. This pantry should help ease some of the strain some of our students experience.”
A WSU study conducted by doctoral student Corissa Carlson with her advisor, psychology professor Paul Toro, showed that students’ physical and mental health were significantly impacted by their housing circumstances. Students without stable housing were significantly more concerned with using college resources to meet basic needs, such as housing and hunger, versus academic needs.
The study said those students had a less productive and less fulfilling college experience.
“When students decide groceries or textbooks, groceries or gas for the car, groceries or tuition, we want to help them with the groceries,” Strauss said. “The president and provost have been extremely supportive and very focused on student needs. We want to help them address a basic need like food so that they can focus on academics and they can graduate.”
Oregon State University study measuring student food insecurity reveals that over 59 percent of students (almost 6-of-10) suffered from food insecurities.
Grant committee members visited food pantries at Eastern Michigan University, Macomb Community College, Michigan State University and University of Michigan Dearborn.
“Visiting the food pantries at other Michigan universities played a big role in helping us visualize, create and model a food pantry that we like that is adaptable, and can be implemented to best serve WSU students,” Strauss said.
WSU’s food pantry has joined the fight against food insecurity on campus and is a food pantry recognized by Gleaners Food Bank. Strauss said this allows WSU to purchase items for the food pantry for cents on the dollar.
The food pantry will start serving students in the spring and summer with nonperishable items. Students can look forward to perishables such as fruits, vegetables, dairy and protein in the fall. Hygiene products will also be available.
One bag of approximately 20 pounds of food can be picked up per student every two weeks. First time pantry visitors will be asked to complete a non-financial registration form, show their OneCard, and will receive a reusable grocery bag and a can opener.
The pantry, located on 703 West Kirby, has operating hours on Sunday from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. and Monday through Thursday 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Students need only to be enrolled or making progress toward a degree at WSU to have access to the pantry.
Map source: Google Maps