For several years departments across UWG have been working together in an effort to start a food pantry on campus and this may finally happen in the near future.
The idea was sparked by the Associate Director of the Counseling Center and Accessibility Services, Maggie Tennant, while working on her dissertation for her doctorate degree.
“In 2015, Dr. Lingrell held a town hall meeting talking about retention, progression, graduation and how we best support our students,” said Tennant. “When he was asking how we best support our students I raised my hand and I said, ‘you know I really wonder about just meeting their basic needs because a lot of times when you’re hungry everything else falls to the wayside.’”
Dr. Scot Lingrell, Vice President for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management, loved Tennant’s idea and wanted to do some research into bringing a food pantry to campus. They spent several months creating a survey to send out to students gauging food security on campus.
“We decided to send out a survey two weeks after the start of fall semester in 2016,” said Tennant. “Typically that’s when financial aid drops and people have money to eat and bills have been paid and the results really came back as we had thought, that in fact there is something happening here.”
The results of the survey showed that 42 percent of students skipped a meal because they did not have enough money and 42 percent also reduced the size of their meals because they did not have enough food. Toward finals week the survey was sent back out and showed similar results, proving there is a food security problem on the UWG campus.
“Once the surveys were presented to Dr. Lingrell it was really about getting a working group put together,” said Tennant. “We pulled people from Dining Services, Community Engagement, Housing and Residence Life, the School of Nursing, College of Education, Counselling Center and all over. It’s really just a big working group. We met pretty consistently for the last couple of years.”
During the time that the surveys were sent out and the working groups were meeting, people started to catch wind of the idea that a food pantry might be coming to campus. The biggest issue Tennant and the working group were facing, however, was finding a location on campus for the pantry. The goal was to find a location that was optimal for students to comfortably come and get food without taking away from a group that might already be in that location.
“The space that has been designated is actually what is currently the commuter lounge,” said Tennant. “It’s a great space but it’s not really great for the commuter students. There was a lot of hesitation on my part because I didn’t want to take the space from commuter students.”
There has been some hesitation on using the commuter lounge and Tennant is working with the SGA president and other campus departments to find a way to make it work. The lounge is the ideal location for the pantry since it is isolated. Construction still has to be done on the space in order to protect the food from the heat of the sun that all the windows bring in.
Tennant and many others have been working for years to get the food pantry to open and things seem to point to a potential opening in the near future.