Pete's Pantry, the OSU Institute of Technology's campus food pantry, is helping combat food insecurity for students, in turn promoting student success.
According to Feeding America, more than 54 million people, including college students, may experience food insecurity in 2020, a 46% increase due to the coronavirus pandemic's effects. Oklahoma is one of 13 states where food insecurity is higher than the national average.
With the overall share of college students with low household incomes increasing and the cost of education, countless students struggle to make ends meet. Many individuals that experience food insecurity don't qualify for federal nutrition programs and rely on local food banks.
"The response has been overwhelming at times, and we struggle to keep the pantry fully stocked," said Beth Rogers, co-chair of the Service Learning Committee. "We tend to serve about 30 to 40 students each week. I have seen a greater need with the COVID pandemic, but students used the pantry a great deal before. The ability to offer frozen chicken breast as an option has also increased the demand."
The Pete's Pantry program was established by the OSUIT Service Learning Committee and has been in operation since October 2019. It is available to students enrolled at OSUIT, including concurrent, GED and MPower, Green Country Technology Center and College of the Muscogee Nation.
There is no application process for students to take advantage of the pantry, simply show a student ID. There is no limit on items received, and students are welcome to visit as often as needed.
Rogers said that as someone who had children in college, she understands the struggle of having enough food, especially healthy food.
"We offer healthy options in our pantry, including a variety of fresh produce when available," said Rogers. "Almost all of the food available for students are healthy choices."
Although the pantry's immediate goal is to provide food assistance to students who are food insecure, the hope is that access to food will also aid in student success.
Feeding America stated that "food insecurity has the potential to harm college students' ability to achieve their educational and professional goals."
Some of Pete's Pantry goals are to: provide students with information on community resources for food insecurity, provide short-term assistance to encourage and foster long-term independence through education, improve academic success by improving access to on-going sources of nutrition for our students.
Through the partnership with the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma, Pete's Pantry is able to supplement the pantry stock but is always accepting donations.
"We constantly need donations to keep the shelves of the pantry stocked," said Rogers. "The pantry accepts donations for nonperishable food items, toiletries, fresh produce and bread."
Monetary donations are also accepted through the OSU Foundation Arts and Sciences Excellence Fund for the OSUIT Pete's Pantry.
The food bank was recently temporarily closed, which caused the pantry to have to turn away students due to a lack of inventory.
"Donations are beneficial if the food bank closes again," said Rogers. "We were very fortunate to have employees step up and donate food and funds to the pantry to ensure our students were fed for that week. I am so grateful for those donations."
Pete's Pantry also provides hands-on leadership experiences for students who are interested in volunteering with the pantry.
Any student or employee may sign up to volunteer. Opportunities could include organizing and stocking the pantry, unloading pallets of food, checking donation expiration dates, helping sustain a clean and organized environment, cleaning the pantry location and serving students who visit the pantry.
Pete's Pantry is located in the Noble Center for Advancing Technology, Suite 100. It is open Mondays from 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m., Tuesday from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m., Wednesday from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday and Friday are by appointment only. Curbside pickup is available during the pandemic.
For more information about Pete's Pantry, donations or volunteer opportunities, please contact co-chairs of the Service Learning Committee, Beth Rogers at email@example.com or Angie Asmussen at firstname.lastname@example.org.