Food is fuel for students in need

Marina Boyle, Features editor

As more and more students across America report food insecurity, Mercyhurst has adopted a proactive stance to a growing issue – hunger.

“You can’t learn if your belly’s not full,” Colin Hurley, Director of Community Engagement, said.

The new MU Pantry began operations on March 18 and is a confidential way for students to receive the food and hygiene items they need discreetly through staff donations.

The Pantry was set up as a response to a growing awareness that food insecurity is a real challenge for students across the country.

“It had been talked about on every staff, brought up by senators and discussed by faculty as a worrying national trend. The amount of literature that exists on students and food insecurity is staggering,” Suzanne Sweeney, Assistant Athletic Director for Student Athlete Health and Wellness, said.

Mercy Emissaries have created the MU Pantry to offer free nonperishable food to any student that needs it. Students can use the online order form to request specific items, which can then be privately picked up from Police and Safety on both Erie and North East campuses.

Although any staff member can help with a donation, Bethany Brun, Director of Service Learning, is overseeing the project along with Sweeney and Hurley.

Donations that the pantry is seeking include canned food items, breakfast foods, pasta and rice items, ready-made meals and hygiene products. All donations can be brought to the Service Learning office, while monetary donations will be accepted by Susan Reddinger in Egan 200 or Greg Baker in Old Main 214.

For any students wanting to help, you can refer a friend in need. The bystander effect can give all students more reliable access to three meals a day.

For students needing help with food security, the weekly order form is found online with orders due by the end of the day each Tuesday. A backpack with the items will then be picked up from Police and Safety that weekend.

The form is confidential. Although someone will receive your email so that they can arrange collection of the food, this would only ever be one staff member and not a fellow student.

Gannon University and Erie elementary school districts have already implemented similar programs.

“Many of our students, particularly international students or athletes, may have issues with making a meal plan stretch. A full sports scholarship at D2 level is only 12 meals per week, and these students need three meals a day. They may have no financial backing from home, and may especially struggle over breaks such as Thanksgiving,” Sweeney said.

The MU Pantry also has longer term plans to run workshops on how to cook on a budget, buy the right foods and find recipes that will suit the food you have access to. Thus, the program can be connected to academic pieces and learning to live on your own.

“At the end of the day,” Brun said, “students are here for academics and eating shouldn’t be a concern. We have done everything we can to respect student privacy and anonymity and look forward to helping students in whatever way we can.”

If you have questions or wish to become involved, please contact the planning team at