FGCU Students Staying on Campus Will Not Go Hungry Over Winter Break


Jessica Piland

The outdoor food pantry, located outside of the food pantry in lot 7, is filled with food for students when the main food pantry is closed.

Gwendolyn Salata, Staff Writer

As winter break approaches, the FGCU Campus Food Pantry is raising the bar in assisting food-insecure students before it closes Dec. 23 to Jan. 3.

Michele Coulter, director of operations of administrative services and finance, said the amount of food given away will be increased to the students’ needs in the days preceding break.

“Any student that’s staying on campus for break should come and visit us before the pantry closes so that they can get enough food to last them through to when the pantry re-opens,” Coulter said. “We always, before breaks, like to up the limit of what we hand out.”

In a typical visit to the pantry, located in the Music Modular, students can get 10 pounds of shelf-stable food, items from a miscellaneous shelf, dairy products, vegetables, meat and bread.

“They can technically walk out of that pantry with 25 to 30 pounds of food,” Coulter said. “Before break, students can get more.”

Coulter was on the steering committee to launch the food pantry. She said it was important to her that it was a choice pantry, a place students can shop for what they want.

“If you don’t choose what food you want to eat and you’re handed a bag of food, nine times out of 10, you’re not going to eat everything that’s in that bag,” she said.

FGCU also has an outdoor food pantry next to the stairs leading up to the Campus Food Pantry. Built by local Girl Scout Troop 427 in 2018, it is a white wooden box with blue shingles. Anyone can access it when the pantry is closed.

Samantha Lloyd, the pantry coordinator, said she will be stocking the outdoor pantry for anyone staying on campus over break.

“It is an honor system [and] for those who need a few extra nonperishables for their meals,” she said.

Amanda Coleman, an FGCU senior, has volunteered at the pantry since 2021 and has been a client since before then.

“In 2019, where I was at, I wasn’t eating,” she said. “I was eating just 99-cent ramen. That was it. I wasn’t able to afford anything.”

Coleman said she was hesitant to use the food pantry at first, but a friend took her. 

“You need to eat…and that’s so much more important than our own egos,” she said.

“The good thing about our food pantry is you can walk around like a grocery store,” Coleman added. “You can bring back your own power and control…and pick out things you really need.”

The coordinator said the pantry has helped 370 students this semester and that students should not feel embarrassed about coming for help. As a former FCGU student, Lloyd used the pantry almost every week from 2014-2017 before graduating and becoming the coordinator.

“I was here on scholarship and did not have time to work more than 20 hours a week to pay for my apartment,” she said. “When all bills were paid, I had nothing left over for food.”

According to Feeding America, one in 10 students face food insecurity during his or her academic career.

Lloyd said the organization is trying to break the stigma of using food pantries and soup kitchens.

“Without proper nutrition, students do not have the fuel to pass their classes in the short-term,” she said. “In the long-term, malnutrition can lead to mental and physical deficits that students can experience later in life.”

She said that some students feel like they are taking food away from others who need it more.

“When you board an airplane, the flight attendants go over safety measures in case of an emergency,” she said. “’If the [oxygen] masks are deployed, always put your mask on first before assisting others.’

The same is for food. You have to take care of yourself first, before you can pay it forward and help others in need.”

The food pantry hours are Monday and Friday, 12 p.m. to 5 p.m., and Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.