Students push to create food pantry

A new initiative is looking to lend a helping hand to hungry students. The program, backed by Oakland University Student Congress, would create a student-run food pantry on campus.

The pantry would be supported by monetary and food-based donations, as well as students willing to volunteer their time.

Legislator Katrina Stencel said she felt a program like this was needed in light of the economic state in this country.

“Students struggling to pay for food and basic necessities sometimes have to drop out of school,” Stencel said. “This way, students can focus their attention on their educational endeavors.”

OUSC Student Services Director Amera Fattah said they are looking to partner with a variety of student organizations, including community service, Greek and athletics.

“Ultimately, we do want to have fundraising efforts and initiatives to get money in order to buy shelving if we find a location for it, as well as food products, cans, toiletries, items that we wouldn’t be able to gather (otherwise),” Fattah said.

Finding a location to serve as a base of operations is proving to be a challenge for the team.

“Long term, I would like to see the pantry have its own space, consistent office hours and opportunities for students to volunteer,” said legislator Maria Willett. “I would also like to see the program eventually have a space for refrigerated items and a graduate assistant or a small student staff to help direct the program and coordinate donations/volunteers.”

Fattah knows they must show student demand for such a service before this can happen.

To that end, she is working to organize an event tentatively scheduled for the week between finals and when students must move out of residence halls entitled “Flashback, Give Back.”

“We would just do a mass drive throughout campus. You can donate clothes, carpets, miscellaneous things that you just have in your dorm that you want to throw out, (or) if you want to bring things on campus, as well as, canned food, the typical nonperishable food items,” she said.

Fattah is also developing a survey to gauge student interest in the project.

She said the group will contact Annual Giving with the hope of setting up a nonprofit to enable tax-deductible donations.

Although they are looking at different ways to help students in need, there are no plans to determine eligibility based on income.

“We want to open the program right now to a variety of students,” Fattah said. “We would like to prioritize to service the students that may have needs here on campus, but there’s no discrimination based on income.”

Stencel said she could see the program expanding beyond the bounds of OU’s campus.

“My long term goals for the food pantry are to have enough inventory to meet the needs of every Oakland Student in need,” she said. “Furthermore, I would love to see the pantry expand enough to help the surrounding community.”