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Saint Mary’s creates Mother Pauline Pantry on campus to combat food insecurity

| Monday, March 4, 2019

On Feb. 19, Saint Mary’s announced in an email that it would open the Mother Pauline Pantry, which will offer nonperishable food and personal hygiene products for all students and will be named after the College’s first president. The pantry will open with a ceremony on March 4 at 4:30 p.m. in McCandless Hall’s Niner’s Lounge.

Dean of students Gloria Jenkins said the division of student affairs led the initiative to open the pantry, with the decision being inspired by the growing issue of food insecurity across all college campuses.

“A growing number of colleges and universities are opening food pantries as a resource for all students,” she said. “On our campus, we want all students to have access to food when needed specifically when dining services are closed but the college is still open.”

In 2017, the University of Wisconsin conducted a multi-state survey of 33,000 college students at more than 70 institutions. The study found that as many as two-thirds of those students were food insecure, with surveys now suggesting that 20% to 33% of all students at four-year colleges experience food insecurity.

In 2016, Ivy Tech Community College in South Bend opened POD 7 as a response to help their students in need. Part of this initiative included a food pantry on campus, in recognition of several of their students struggling with food insecurity.

Lauren Dietz Gorski is a Client Services Manager at United Health Services and aided in the development of the POD 7 project at Ivy Tech. Gorski said in an email that having food insecurity is detrimental to a student’s education.

“Living in crisis — such as having no food — creates a toxic high-stress environment that does not allow students to do their best,” she said.

Gorski said even though there were food pantries and hot meals programs operating near to the South Bend campus, Ivy Tech students, and all college students, “needed a place geared to them.”

In the email sent out on Feb. 19, Jenkins stated that, “Mother Pauline’s Pantry’s mission is to create a safe environment in which students can gain access to healthy, good food, to provide nonperishable food items and hygiene products to students and to lessen food insecurity on the Saint Mary’s campus.”

Jenkins said the pantry will rely on monetary donations to purchase new supplies in the future and staff members from the Office of Student Involvement and Residence Life will oversee the daily operation of the pantry.

One of these staff members is junior sociology major Anastasia Hite, who is an assistant for Le Mans Hall Director Nicole Hundt. Hite said she has been busy sorting and organizing the pantry before its opening Monday.

However, Hite said the pantry is not a ‘walk-in’ pantry; rather, students can apply for access to the pantry — via the ResLife form attached to the initial email — and then boxes will be delivered to the front desks of the residence halls, with orders being filled on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.  

“Essentially, [the boxes] are checked in at the front desk like any other package,” she said. “We’re making it as anonymous as possible because it takes a lot for someone to go to a pantry and say, ‘I need food.’ There’s limited people fulfilling and handling orders, so it won’t be common knowledge that orders are filled for a specific student.”

Hite said there is often a lot of food insecurity during academic breaks, as students who have no access to transportation are often left without food since the dining hall is closed and the cafes run on limited hours.

The pantry will be stocked with feminine hygiene products and nonperishable, nutritional and filling food items, Hite said.  

“We have a breakfast section, a lunch shelf, then more of a meal shelf and a snack shelf, too … the people who bought food tried to pick things that had nutrition and weren’t just snack food,” she said. “There’s also a gluten-free section, and that was really important because even if you do have an allergy you can still get food.”

A great number of students with food insecurity do exist on campus, Hite said, and the creation of the Mother Pauline Pantry is the first step in helping all students succeed.

“We shouldn’t look down on students because they’re utilizing the pantry,” she said. “Food is a necessity and Saint Mary’s is providing a basic need. The college is great at feeding our minds but we also need to feed our bodies.”

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About Gina Twardosz

Gina Twardosz is a senior English Writing and Communication Studies double major at Saint Mary's College. She's the co-editor of the Investigative Unit, a Saint Mary's social media liaison, and she occasionally writes for SMC News and Scene. Gina is a tried and true Midwesterner and yes, she does say "ope" often.

Contact Gina