An initiative that started last fall to open a food pantry for Glen Oaks Community College students is now a reality. Campus Cupboard recently opened its doors and is serving students both in food and other necessity items.

Located at the west end of the Dresser Business Development Auditorium, between the college main entrance and Devier Student Suites, the pantry is open Tuesdays from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. and Fridays from noon to 1 p.m. Students wanting to take advantage of the free food should bring in their Glen Oaks’ student ID card with a current semester sticker. There are regulations that apply to how many times a student can come per week.

“Over the past year we noticed there were a number of students exhibiting behaviors associated with being hungry,” said Karen Webber, student support specialist. “For example, students were charging leftover Pell grant money to buy items such as potato chips at the college book store. In another instance, an advisor saw students frequently coming to grab protein bars she made available to them.”

Hunger issues seemed to become even more prevalent at the college once the new Devier Student Suites opened last fall.

“In Student Services, a number of us discussed the problem and began meeting to determine the best way to tackle the issue,” said Webber. “As counselors, we often conduct life checks to see where they are with finances, clothing, etc., and we saw through this process the need for food assistance. In addition, we surveyed faculty, staff and students and decided to move forward based on their response.”

The Glen Oaks Foundation donated $2,000 for startup money. Ties were developed with the Food Bank of South Central Michigan (FBSCM) in Battle Creek and the St Joseph County Emergency Care Network.

“Prior to the holidays, we held a very successful campus food drive and began to serve a few students in the suites on a number of occasions,” said Webber.

“The challenge was to figure out where to store the food and the suggestion to store it in an area adjacent to the Dresser Business Development auditorium seemed ideal,” said Webber. “The site works especially well since it has a back door which provides privacy for student seeking assistance and also making it convenient for food deliveries.”

Webber and Anne Springsteen, TRIO project director became food pantry co-chairs and attended training at the FBSCM where they became familiar with the processes and the online ordering system. Since, April Yost, housing director, has recently accepted responsibility as an additional chairperson with the leadership model now a “tri-chair” shared responsibility effort.

Food pantries are becoming increasingly commonplace among campuses across the nation. “We are excited that this project came together so quickly,” said Webber. “There were a lot of people who helped to make this happen.”

We are also working with the Glen Oaks’ Financial Aid Department to offer information and opportunities for work-study positions.  Informational brochures for area resources and supports are available to students accessing supplemental food services.  Other employment services such as information for MI Works!, area employment agencies and internet based search engines for resume promotion are accessible for students.   The goal of the Campus Cupboard committee is to offer support and services to help students improve employment potential along with supplemental food support.

“We have received donations from area businesses including Century Bank & Trust and Burr Oak Tool, Inc., along with countless other private community residents without whose generosity and compassion the student pantry would struggle to exist.

Special recognition is given to the Glen Oaks Community College Foundation for provision of initial funding to open the student food pantry, the Emergency Care Network of St. Joseph County, United Way of St. Joseph County and the Food Bank of Southcentral Michigan.

Persons wishing to donate food items or money to the food pantry can do so by sending checks to Glen Oaks Community College Campus Cupboard or by contacting one of the three co-chairs Anne Springsteen 269-294-4337 aspringsteen@glenoaks.edu, Karen Webber 269-294-4241 kwebber@glenoaks.edu or April Yost 269-294-4252 ayost@glenoaks.edu.  If you provide contact information, verification of your donation will be sent along with acknowledgement of your generosity.