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College food pantries keep students focused on class, not food

Updated: Apr. 22, 2021 at 9:00 PM CDT
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PINE BELT, Miss. (WDAM) - Some college students have more to think about these days than just taking exams and making good grades.

Some have to worry about where their next meal is coming from.

To ease that concern, some colleges and universities in the Pine Belt have established food pantries that offer quality food for free.

Emily Ford is a freshman at Jones College and she has made use of the Bobcat Food Pantry at the campus health clinic.

“I use [it] every, twice a month I want to say. I enjoy coming here and seeing what all they have,” Ford said.

“Whenever I can’t spend money on like big food items, this is what I use as a resource.”

Many other students at Jones College also use the Bobcat Pantry as a resource for good food.

Pantry coordinator Kristen Register says about 80 students visit the pantry each month.

They can also get free personal hygiene products and school supplies there.

It opened in 2014.

“I think it’s an awesome gift that we offer here,” Register said. “Students are super grateful when they come in, so it warms my heart to know that hey, somebody didn’t go hungry tonight, so they can have something to eat if they need it.”

Many food pantries need donations to keep their shelves stocked.

The Bobcat Food Pantry gets help from Jones College campus organizations, as well as local churches and service clubs.

Likewise, the Eagle’s Nest Food Pantry at the University of Southern Mississippi relies on donations of both food and money.

It gets help from student organizations and outside community resources.

The Eagle’s Nest opened in 2016 and it serves students and university employees on Mondays and Wednesdays.

“We do have a good group that comes [to the pantry], probably 50 to 60 people every time we’re open,” said Sirena Cantrell, a food pantry advisor who also serves as USM’s associate vice-president for student affairs and dean of students. “Even some of our staff members that their spouse may have lost their job and so, they’re struggling and so, we don’t stop anybody. As long as they are a current student, staff, faculty, we want to help everybody in our USM community.”

In Poplarville, The Market Food Pantry helps the Wildcat Community at Pearl River Community College.

It’s open on Tuesday and Wednesday and by appointment.

It’s located inside the Carol Williams Station.

That building also includes the Wildcat Career Closet, which provides free professional-style clothing to students that can be used for speech presentations or job interviews.

“We try to remove all the obstacles so they don’t have to worry about the food necessities, the major hygiene necessities, the clothing necessities,” said Candace Harper, a board member for the Carol William Station and associate vice-president for marketing and communications at Pearl River Community College.

“This is very gratifying. It allows students to come in and it kind of takes the weight off their shoulder. They know we’re here and we’re offering more than just an education, we’re trying to help them get to their end goal and this is just a great service that we’re able to provide along that journey.”

Student organizations and local service clubs help keep the shelves stocked at The Market Pantry.

It also recently received some grant funds from the Jackson-based Woodward Hines Education Foundation.

The Market Food Pantry opened in 2018.

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