Tackling food insecurity

Published 4:35 pm Friday, February 3, 2023

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MURFREESBORO – A newly renamed and relocated food pantry on Chowan University’s campus will still serve the same purpose since its inception: making sure students have food when they need it.

A ribbon cutting event was held on Jan. 31 on campus for Murf’s Food Pantry, formerly known as the Just in Time Food Pantry.

Its new location in Marks Hall comes with an expansion of what it has to offer students. In the past, the pantry had a variety of dry goods, personal hygiene items, and snacks. Now with a newly donated refrigerator and freezer, they’re now able to offer students more fresh and frozen foods as well.

A number of university staff and community partners were in attendance for Tuesday’s event. Syble Shellito, Director of Academic Success, shared the history of the food pantry with the attendees.

Destiny Vaughan (center) and Rachel Van Buren (right), co-presidents of the Honors College, present a $1,000 donation to Syble Shellito, Director of Academic Success at Chowan. The funds will help purchase items for the newly relocated and expanded Murf’s Food Pantry. Staff Photo by Holly Taylor

“Over the years, many faculty and staff members sought to fulfill individual student needs as those needs became apparent,” she explained.

In 2017, Professor Christina Rupsch, who then served as the Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, took notice of heightened levels of food insecurity and decided to work with members of the local community to establish the Just in Time food pantry.

“She turned her office and office closets into holding spaces for canned goods, personal hygiene products, and snacks,” Shellito continued.

When Rupsch retired in 2020, the Academic Success department took on the project to continue it. Shellito referred to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to demonstrate why the project was so crucial to student success. Meeting the basic needs for food and water is the first step in being able to reach their full potential in life.

Elizabeth Whitaker, a coach with the Academic Success department, explained that they did a lot of research about food insecurity, which is a problem many college students across the country face. Some students, for example, may not be able to afford a full meal plan or have enough money to purchase food for late night study sessions.

When students opt to stay on campus during breaks, it’s helpful to have easier access to food while the university’s dining hall is closed. The food pantry is intended to close those gaps.

Student volunteer London Williams said the pantry is helpful for students who don’t have extra income from a campus job or whose families aren’t able to send them additional money for food.

“I know times are hard,” Williams explained. “I think it’s a great resource for an everyday, busy student to come in and grab something, and even interact with a great community and great staff.”

Shawn Lambrey, another student, said the food pantry and its staff really help make life easier.

“I’m truly grateful for these people and everyone who donated to the food pantry,” he said.

The relocation and renovation of Murf’s Food Pantry was made possible through the help of many community members and organizations, including a recent partnership with Food Bank of the Albemarle, which will provide fresh produce, frozen foods, and fresh/frozen meats at $0.04 per pound. That partnership will also provide training on food safety, inventory management, civil rights (access), and networking to related grant information.

The pantry received their first delivery from Food Bank of the Albemarle on Jan. 27.

Several local organizations and people made donations to aid in the recent expansion of the food pantry. One such donation was presented during Tuesday’s event by student co-presidents of the Honors College, Destiny Vaughan and Rachel Van Buren.

Vaughan and Van Buren explained that several students from the Honors College had volunteered at an event with Severn Peanut Company recently, and in return for their service, the company provided a $1,000 donation to them for the food pantry.

To officially open Murf’s Food Pantry, Chowan University President Dr. Kirk Peterson and Murfreesboro Mayor Hal Thomas cut the ribbon at the entrance to the pantry’s new location, Marks Hall Room 216.

The pantry is open from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. There is no cost for students to access the food pantry.