As we work in communities to find solutions to hunger, we are hearing more about college students who are food insecure, especially nontraditional students. According to Feeding America, 10% of college students are food insecure.
Our first college campus pantry was started at Pulaski Technical College in North Little Rock in August 2013. A lot was learned from the experience with our wonderful Pulaski Tech partners, including the reasons students need access to a food pantry: unexpected car repair, medical or other expenses, losing a job, being laid off, or having work hours cut back.
We encourage leaders on college campuses to consider start a pantry to serve students and their families. As a member of the Arkansas Foodbank, you will receive technical support, training, and access to food and other resources that will help the pantry be successful and sustainable.
That is why in collaboration with the Clinton School of Public Service we have developed this start-up guide for post-secondary institutions interested in starting their own campus food pantries. Download it now!
Following are recommendations and considerations from Michelle Anderson, the coordinator of the Pulaski Tech pantry. We greatly appreciate her willingness to share her experience.
- Assess the interest of the people on campus. Pulaski Tech sent out a campus wide e-mail and then held a meeting to determine the campus community’s interest. From that meeting, a contact list was developed and a steering committee chosen.
- Organize a steering committee that includes students, faculty, staff, and administration. A group of six to eight members who have influence on campus and in the community is recommended.
- Survey the surrounding community to see what food pantries already exist. If there are well-established pantries, are they close to campus? Do they serve college students? Are public transportation stops close by? Do the pantries’ hours of distribution fit the students’ schedules? If the answer to these questions is “yes,” consider partnering with the existing pantries. They can probably use volunteers and other resources from the college while providing food to students in need.
- Divide the steering committee and volunteers into sub-groups with chairs of each: fundraising and food drives on campus, volunteer coordinator, fundraising and food drives off campus, and inventory manager (ordering, sorting donations, shelving food, deciding what goes into the boxes for each distribution.)
- Select one person to be the pantry manager or chair. Sometimes, co-chairs work well if duties are specifically designated. The food pantry manager at Pulaski Tech spends 10 to 15 hours each week preparing for PT’s weekly distribution.
- Physical space for the pantry, including space for storage and surplus donations. This space needs to be secure and clean, with proper shelving and space for a freezer and refrigerator.
- Funds – How will you raise funds? You will need money for shelves, refrigerator, freezer, office supplies, cleaning supplies, and food.
- Volunteers – You must have a volunteer base to pull from (student groups, staff). It is important to have regular volunteers, not just volunteers who drop in occasionally. It takes time to train volunteers, so having a steady crew is important. At Pulaski Tech, volunteerism is required for some classes, and this has helped secure regular volunteers