Park University pantry proactively fights against student hunger

Hunger Action Month

PARKVILLE, Mo. — In college, most people can remember food items like ramen noodles and canned goods were a staple. For some students, that was the only thing available.

Being a “starving student” was a rite of passage into adulthood.  But now, especially with during the pandemic, many colleges like Park University are realizing food insecurity is nothing to joke about.

Kai Yim is a sophomore at Park University. He says food insecurity is not a worry for him, or his friends.

“I don’t really think about where my next meal is, I can just go to the cafeteria I have a fridge full of food as well,” he said.

But he did acknowledge that food insecurity continues to be a growing problem on college campuses across the United States.

“We had a lot of students who lost their jobs, or they lost their jobs due to COVID and needed food,” Dean Dr. Jayme Uden said.

Their answer: The Pirate Pantry. This food resource started on campus in 2018, inspired by Park’s mascot. The pantry receives donations from Harvesters, community organizations and private donations.

Uden says requests have jumped 25% since the pandemic began, growing to about 40 students visiting the pantry per month.

“We have students trying to make it in the classroom, trying to make it work, and ramen and mac and cheese work, I’ve done it too. It’s not going to keep them at their top performance,” he said.

The pantry boasts non-perishable food items, and even toiletries to ensure students are well taken care of.

And it’s no questions asked, students simply swipe in, grab a bag, and gather the items they need.

“Students have to make a choice, They get money, they buy books, or they could pay for utilities for a month a two,” Dr. Uden said. “We don’t want them to have to choose those things.”

They can go with friends, or go alone to ensure privacy. Allison Anderson says that’s a plus stigma could stop students from asking for help.

“If you are seen to not have whats in or whats the trend, or not have a lot, people have a negative assosciation with that,” she said.

Another trend among college students is their varying age. Many college students looks much different today than several years ago. They are now older, with more responsibilities.

“When they are juggling work, family, and trying to go to school, it’s an additional financial burden to buy groecries,” Harvesters spokesperson Kera Mashek said.

Pirate Pantry hopes to relieve that burden, making a way for students to focus on success, instead of an empty tummy.

“On top of courseloard, and getting a degree, things like food insecurity is the last thing you want to thing about,” Anderson said.

To donate to Pirate Pantry, you can visit this link

To donate to Harvesters, visit this link.

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