For some members of the WKU community, the freedom and excitement of summer are overshadowed by the need to feed a family. Within the Office of Sustainability, the food pantry and its community garden are working to help families with food insecurity during this time.
Many visitors to the food pantry include faculty or non-traditional students with families. Christian Ryan, sustainability coordinator, said during the summer the food pantry receives fewer donations but the need for food is greater.
Throughout the academic year, grade school students can receive breakfast and lunch at school which makes it more difficult for parents to feed an entire family during the summer.
Ryan said a lot of people still do not know about the food pantry and all it provides or the large amount of food insecurity on campus. Ryan described food insecurity as not knowing where your next meal will come from or skipping meals because you cannot go to the store for food.
“I don’t think most of us realize that many more students than we expect are food insecure and when we do realize that, we all want to alleviate that problem,” Ryan said. “We’re interested in making sure that our students succeed and finding the next meal should be the last thing on our students’ mind.”
Many different programs on campus and within the community have assisted in promoting food insecurity and the food pantry. Last year a public relations class conducted an on-campus survey which resulted in an informational packet to faculty about undergraduate food insecurity at WKU.
Wholesome WKU has been a long time partner for the Office of Sustainability and the food pantry.
Ryan said a major issue the food pantry has is people will bring in a lot of canned corn, beans and other items that don’t create a full meal. Students who are living out of their car or don’t have access to a stove or can opener can’t benefit from those items.
Wholesome helped the Office of Sustainability create a donation list of nutritious and easily accessible food to get food “beyond the can,” Ryan said. Wholesome also demonstrated how to make use of some of the common items at the food pantry such as corn and beans.
In the food pantry, there is a push for more proteins and whole grains. The Office of Sustainability also has a community garden which provides fresh fruits and vegetables for the food pantry.
Brandi Breden, WKU dietitian, said working with the Office of Sustainability is a natural fit because they are both promoting all around wellness. Ryan said the Community Farmer’s Market and WKU Hilltopper Creamery have also been useful in contributing local produce and sources of protein to the food pantry.
Breden said the food pantry could build relationships across campus and provides several volunteer opportunities in addition to serving those with food insecurity. Ryan said the food pantry could provide more meaningful volunteer opportunities like organizing food drives and branding which lead to more professional experience.
Over time, Ryan said she had built a connection with frequent visitors to the food pantry. While many starts off apologetic about visiting, many are now harvesting vegetables in the garden and feel more comfortable.
“It’s my hope that when visitors to the food pantry get back on their feet, which they will, that they will someday be in a position to support the food pantry,” Ryan said
Reporter Rebekah Alvey can be reached at 270-745-6011 and [email protected]