USC Upstate raising money for pantry to aid students in need

October 9, 2011 at 4:44 pm
Reprinted from GoUpstate.com   http://www.goupstate.com/article/20111006/ARTICLES/111009790
By Linda Conley
linda.conley@shj.com
Published: Thursday, October 6, 2011 at 11:46 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, October 6, 2011 at 11:46 p.m.

The University of South Carolina Upstate wants to make sure students don’t go hungry or lack the basic necessities.

Within the next several weeks, the Division of Student Affairs will open a food pantry called The Closet. Student Affairs is using the effort to create awareness about poverty and hunger through the Spartan Nutritional Assistance Campaign or SNAC.

Donations of food and money are being collected to get the food bank started. Plans are to open the food pantry at the end of October or the beginning of November.

On Thursday afternoon, Chancellor Thomas Moore and athletic director Mike Hall sat in a dunking booth to raise money at the annual Rocktoberfest. People got three chances to dunk campus leaders at a cost of $5 or 10 canned or nonperishable items.

“SNAC is a very good idea and such a worthy cause,” Moore said. “I said I would do the dunking booth because I am ready to do whatever I can to help, especially for SNAC.”

Moore waited around for his chance to get in the dunking booth and talked to students. He said he liked the opportunity to chat in the relaxed atmosphere of the festival.

USC Upstate is among several universities nationwide establishing food banks. During the past few years, similar programs were developed at universities in California and other states.

“A case study came up about a student who couldn’t work because of hunger,” said Kara Ferguson, USC Upstate Student Life assistant director of campus programs. “If students focus on where their next meal is coming from or feel sad and stressed, they aren’t going to do well academically. We hope the food pantry will help to ease some of those stresses and teach students some skills that will help them later.”

Ferguson said the university doesn’t have statistics on the number of students going without food, but she has heard stories about students struggling financially.

“We heard discussions from professors and students talking about other students who were living in their cars because they couldn’t find a place to live and struggling to make ends meet,” she said. “In other cases, students may have scholarships that pay for some things, but not for food and basic necessities. We also have a large number of nontraditional students, who don’t want to take food or money from their families, so they are trying to make it on a burrito and don’t get enough to eat.”

Student Affairs is getting help on the project from student organizations, and university faculty and staff are being asked to make donations of food and other items.

“The food pantry is a wonderful idea because some students don’t have a lot of monetary assistance,” said Student Government Association President Ana Osuna. “I have met some students who are having a hard time, but they don’t like to talk about those issues because it’s hard. The food pantry will be out in the open, and they will be able to get the help they need without having to talk about it.”

The food pantry will be located in the Campus Life Center and available to any student who doesn’t have a campus meal plan. In addition to food, the pantry also will include paper goods, household supplies and hygiene products.

There are no income requirements and referrals can be made by students. The pantry will operate on good faith hoping students will take only as much as they need.

“I work indirectly with Mobile Meals (of Spartanburg) and know how important food items are this time of the year,” Hall said. “We can’t be naive to think no one misses a meal. I think it is great for the university to provide this (pantry). Taking a few by sitting in the dunking booth is a worthy cause.”

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