Marshall University food pantry encounters big need
HUNTINGTON — Alicia Fox knew the university needed a food pantry, but she didn’t realize just how necessary it was until she saw the line out the door Tuesday when the pantry opened for the first time.
“It was very humbling,” Fox, Marshall University’s Department of Dietetics director of nutrition education, said Tuesday. “There is a huge need, and I think it is very evident today. To see how excited and appreciative people are — it brought me to tears.”
The pantry is located in the dietetics building at 233 Pullman Center at 907 3rd Ave. in downtown Huntington. It will be open 2 to 4 p.m. on Tuesdays and 9 to 11 a.m. on Thursdays.
Marshall closed a food pantry located on campus last year, citing lack of staff and space to keep it afloat for the small number of students who were using it.
Fox said the hope is moving the pantry off campus will increase student traffic.
“At the old pantry, accessibility was a problem,” Fox said. “We have a shuttle directly here. They don’t have to walk into the student center, past all the people, down the stairs, back through. We hope this will alleviate some of those feelings.”
The pantry is staffed by graduate dietetic students, who do a rotation with Fox. Fox said they are hoping to get other student organizations involved as well.
Fox said the assumption that if you can afford to go to college, you can afford to eat is false. Research shows almost half of all college students are food insecure.
“Many of them fall in a hole or a gap,” she said. “They may get some support from family; they may not. They may have loans but not qualify for extra loans for expenses. Also, a lot of them are nontraditional now.”
One example is a student who qualified for grants or scholarships to live on campus, but the meal plan only covers two meals.
“But that doesn’t mean you are only hungry two times a day, so they need to find that third meal somewhere,” Fox said.
Nontraditional students may be working part time, and due to the cost of college, may not have enough to make ends meet. Some may have families.
“I knew people who would choose not to eat lunch because they needed to be able to afford to feed their family later,” Fox said.
Although the focus is students, the pantry is also open to community members. Individuals who stop by the food pantry will be asked to sign in, but no formal documentation or identification will be required.
The long line Tuesday cleared the shelves of the pantry, but a large donation from a local company refilled the shelves Wednesday. Still, the pantry is looking for all the help it can get, because it is 100 percent operating off donations.
Suggested donations include nonperishables like macaroni and cheese, canned vegetables, canned meat, peanut butter, cereal and oatmeal. Evaporated milk is also recommended, as milk can be hard to get. Fox said to think of things that provide more nourishment.
Monetary donations are also being accepted for the pantry to purchase goods from Facing Hunger Foodbank.
“Every little bit helps,” Fox said.
To make a nonperishable donation, contact Kelli Williams at williamsk@marshall. edu or Fox at email@example.com and they will make arrangements to pick up the food donation or have it dropped off.
To learn more about the Marshall University food pantry, call 304-696-4629.