UNA food pantry celebrates 3 years of ‘Feeding the Pride’

Pantry Coordinator Justiss Martin fills the Feeding the Pride pantry shelves with donated canned goods. The food pantry, located in GUC 225,  is a service provided to all UNA students free of charge.

Three years ago one student saw a need among her fellow classmates. Some students were going hungry. She started the Feeding the Pride food pantry to help meet that need. Now, junior Justiss Martin has taken on the role of pantry coordinator and continues her dream.

If students are ever out of food and are unable to buy more, the food pantry is here to help.

The pantry, open Monday and Wednesday from 1:30-3:30 p.m. and Tuesday from 11 a.m.-1 p.m., is a service provided for UNA students.

UNA alumna Julia Darcy said she started the food pantry in 2012 after having a discussion with other Resident Advisors about students stealing food from roommates.

“We began to discuss how we’d seen some students going through garbage cans and eating food out of them,” she said. “This was something that I had personally witnessed. I guess it just hit me then and there that this was a major problem. Students on our campus needed food.”

She began working on the proposal for the pantry during the spring semester of 2012, she said.

“Once we got it approved, I spent the summer working on gathering donations and getting things organized, and we opened that fall,” she said.

Coordinator of Leadership and Volunteerism Bethany Green said she wants students to know the service is available to them.

“If for some reason they need the assistance, we are here,” she said.

Green said more students have been taking advantage of the pantry in the past few weeks than before. She said she thinks it is because more people are becoming aware of it.

Martin said she decided to become the newest coordinator for the pantry last spring after volunteering and realizing how many students are in need.

“I wanted to be the person to help them,” she said. “I saw its potential. A lot of people didn’t even realize we had a food pantry.”

Martin said she has seen an increase in students since she became coordinator.

“We used to not get students for weeks at a time,” she said. “This semester we’ve seen about 40-50.”

Martin said knowing a lot of people in the campus community helped her spread the word.

“Other organizations are well-known on campus, and I felt this was something that needed to be known as well.”

Wesley Pennington, a freshman, said he thinks the pantry is an excellent service for students who may not have family and friends who can help them.

“Some aren’t as fortunate as others,” he said. “If I run out of anything, I have that security. Others don’t.”

Green said students can use the food pantry’s services once a week.

“The food pantry serves all UNA students,” she said. “This includes those who do not live on campus.”

The pantry also provides food to students with dietary needs and allergies, she said.

“If someone comes in and they say they have a strict diet they have to follow because of allergies or any other reason, then we can go and get food that can help them out,” she said. “We try to help the students out as much as possible.”

Martin said the process to start using the service is simple.

“Anyone can come to the pantry and fill out a sign-in sheet with their name, L number (student number) and UNA email,” she said. “If a student does not feel comfortable leaving their name on a sign-in sheet, they are also able to email me their information prior to use of the pantry, and it will be kept private.”

She said students can come in during the hours of operation, but they can also make an appointment.

The pantry relies solely on donations from the community, she said.

“Without donations we would not be able to operate and assist all of the students in need that we do,” she said.

Green said students or community members can donate either money or food, and supplies like granola bars, ramen, rice and peanut butter run out quicker than others.

“I hope everyone comes to the pantry at least once to check it out and either use it to their advantage or to donate nonperishable food items,” Martin said.

Being coordinator for the pantry has taught her a lot, she said.

“From this experience I’ve definitely learned to be more selfless,” she said. “It’s taught me how to respect others, how to handle a nonprofit organization and how to reach out to other organizations.”

Freshman Lauren Bowden said this service is great for any students who need help.

“Sometimes people are in a bind, and they need that help,” she said. “Everyone needs food, and this is just another way to get it.”

Darby said she is happy the pantry is still serving the needs of students.

“College is expensive, even with scholarships sometimes,” Darby said. “In my mind, even if only one student has truly benefited from it within the past three years it has been open, then it’s all worth it.”