Feeding those in need: Students volunteer at the Campus Food Pantry
Student accessible food pantries are a growing trend on college campuses across the country and Florida Gulf Coast University is no exception to that trend.
The Campus Food Pantry serves students with a valid Eagle ID who experience “food insecurity,” which is not having the financial means to secure food on a regular basis.
FGCU’s first lady Jo Anna Bradshaw founded the food pantry in August 2012. Bradshaw was on the board for the Harry Chapin Food Bank for six years. Bradshaw conducted a survey of students on campus and decided to open the food pantry based on the results.
The pantry is dependent on volunteers. During the 2013-2014 school year alone, 41 volunteers provided 691 service hours to operate the pantry, which was visited 1,743 times by students.
“We’ve been supported completely by volunteers our whole two years. We wouldn’t be able to do this without volunteers,” Bradshaw said. “When you work with human
services you really see what people are going through and hopefully gives you some insight education, but more so, compassion for the individual. It gives you an opportunity to experience the human experience that may not be your own.”
Volunteers can go to the food pantry’s website, www.fgcu.edu/foodpantry, and click on the volunteer spot link. Students then enter their email address and select which shifts they would like to volunteer.
“It’s here on campus, it satisfies your service learning hours, and it makes it very easy for students without cars or transportation to fulfill that requirement, and we do have volunteers that do the whole semester with us. We have two volunteers from last year who have already signed up for this year. It’s a highly sought after spot,” Bradshaw explained.
Volunteers earn three and a half hours per day and can select as many shifts as they would like each week. The pantry is open Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 3p.m. – 6p.m., but volunteers arrive at 2:30p.m. Volunteer duties consist of guiding students through the pantry, sorting food, checking expiration dates, cleaning the pantry once a month and unloading the trucks from the Harry Chapin Food Bank twice a month.
Eliza Juezan, a recent FGCU graduate and former volunteer at the Campus Food Pantry, logged over 400 hours with the pantry during her time at FGCU.
“One of the main lessons I took with me from volunteering is that there is no “face” of hunger. Hunger can impact anyone,” Juezan said. “Volunteers serve students they see in class, in passing between classes or sometimes even their friends. Being able to recognize and see the impact of your service is so gratifying. At the end of the day, you realize that we’re all college students. Some may be struggling more than others, but we’re all in this together. Eagles helping Eagles!”
For students who cannot volunteer but still wish to help, the campus Food Pantry accepts two kinds of donations: monetary and food. Monetary donations can be made online on their website, and FGCU faculty can donate with their “You Give Form.”
The food pantry accepts both perishable and non-perishable food donations as long as they are not home-made, partially used or opened packages or items not commercially packaged, for safety reasons.
The Campus Food Pantry currently needs canned and fresh fruit, macaroni and cheese, any bean expect for green beans, and canned proteins such as tuna. A full list of recommended donations, which is updated based on the pantry’s needs, can be found on the pantry’s website.
These items can be dropped off at the food pantry or at one of their many drop off sites. These locations are Ben Hill Griffin, room 146; Cohen Center, room 288; Edwards Hall, room 214; McTarnaghan Hall, room 223; Merwin Hall, room 268; Reed Hall, room 220; and the WGCU lobby.
Students who enjoy being active can also get involved by participating in the WINK News Feeds Families Hunger Walk. The Hunger Walk is an annual fundraiser that benefits both the Campus Food Pantry and Harry Chapin Food Bank.
“The money that we raise at the university helps us purchase food and pay for delivery costs,” Bradshaw said about the Hunger Walk. “FGCU has always been the number one university team for six years running. This will be our seventh year.”
Students interested in visiting or volunteering for the Campus Food Pantry can contact the pantry at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-745-FOOD. They are located in Music Modular Lot 7, room 102. Volunteers find the experience impacts them both professionally and personally.
“Professionally, I’ve been able to increase my knowledge in social issues, while gaining leadership and management experience. Personally, I’ve been able to find myself in helping others,” Juezan said. “I’ve always known that I had a passion in service, but the food pantry opened opportunities for me that I would have never imagined.”