This is a news release from The University of Southern Mississippi
Balancing studies, work, tuition and bills is stressful for any university student. When funds to pay for food are limited, another layer of stress is added.
The School of Social Work Student Association of Social Workers (SASW) at The University of Southern Mississippi is determined to eliminate this stress. On Wednesday, Oct. 12, the group will open the doors to The Eagle's Nest, a student-run food pantry for Southern Miss students and staff.
"We hope to reduce any stigma associated with food insecurity," said Jennifer Martin, a social work graduate student and manager of The Eagle's Nest. "We want to say that if you are a student or staff member who goes hungry from time to time, we have your back. We're here for you and want to help see you through those rough times."
Located in the basement of The Hub, The Eagle's Nest will offer food, hygiene items and school supplies at no cost. Only a current Southern Miss identification card is needed to access the pantry.
Applications for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), medical insurance and other resources will also be available.
Dr. Tamara Hurst, assistant professor and SASW adviser, suggested the group start a project that could leave a lasting impact on campus. Around the same time, Dr. Thomas Burke, vice president for student affairs, was interested in finding a student organization wanting to start a project like a food pantry. "We seized the opportunity and ran with it," said Hurst. "It's been non-stop ever since."
The Eagle' Nest is managed by SASW, but not without significant support from the Southern Miss community. The Division of Student Affairs helped secure the location and the Office of Sustainability helped clean the space. The Center for Community and Civic Engagement met with SASW members about volunteer recruitment, organization, and retention. The pantry is supported by grants, monetary donations, and in-kind donations.
"The Eagle's Nest is a symbol of the number of good-hearted people we still have in this world," said Martin. "It started out as an idea, yet over the last few months, it has transformed into so much more. It has all been made possible by caring individuals from the campus and Hattiesburg community."
To prepare for the opening, several SASW students visited the Mississippi Food Network in Jackson where they learned about food network operations and how to process food pantry orders. They also spoke with managers of other on-campus food pantries, including two in Mississippi.
"The Eagle's Nest is about supporting our students as they work toward graduation, upon which they will hopefully have better access to and choice of economic opportunities," said Hurst.
SASW hopes to connect with other student organizations interested in helping out with the pantry. Volunteers are always needed and volunteer training is held monthly. For more information contact SASW@usm.edu.