Eastern Michigan University may open a food pantry soon. Haley Moraniec and Lynn Nybell presented the initiative at the Board of Regents Student Affairs Committee meeting March 17.
“I work really closely with Earthworks urban garden in Detroit, and that kind of sparked my inspiration and passion,” said Moraniec, vice president of the Social Welfare Action Alliance, in an earlier interview. “So many of our students are in need of financial help.”
Nybell, director of the School of Social Work, cited studies and statistics in the presentation showing that food insecurity is a reality for many college students and said that other universities have created food pantries on their own campuses in response to student needs.
“In 1993, MSU was the first university in the nation to create a student food pantry,” Moraniec said. “The founders of MSU’s pantry realized that students faced food insecurity on a regular basis and that they struggled to not only with their studies, but also family life and work.”
According to the College and University Food Bank Alliance, more than 100 college campuses have food banks or pantries including several universities in Michigan: Michigan State University, University of Michigan in Dearborn, Grand Valley State University and Saginaw Valley State University.
“The U of M’s food pantry is brand, brand new. Food Gatherers did a pilot food pantry with them, and I was in contact with both U of M and Food Gatherers,” Moraniec said. “And Food Gatherers said they were willing to do that for us.”
Moraniec said that the percentage of students at EMU who receive Pell grants, or unsecured federal funding, has increased from 29 percent in 2009 to 57 percent in 2014.
“Those numbers show that so many of our students need financial help,” she said.
Nybell said that universities are increasing pressure both externally and internally to remove barriers of college success.
“We think that because there is significant research documenting that economic and food insecurity interferes with the achievement of younger students that it’s logical to assume that it interferes with college student success as well,” she said. “By identifying and recognizing food insecurity among our students, we can help remove one of those barriers.”
The proposal garnered Regent support.
“Certainly, they have convinced me of the need and I think others, the provost included,” Regent Dennis Beagan said. “The reality is that when you see the data that we saw and the hard work that went into it, I sure hope that it continues.”
It is still unclear whether the food pantry is going to be a reality at EMU, but Associate Vice President of Student Affairs Calvin Phillips is positive.
“As far as I know, it’s going to go forward,” he said. “I think right now we still have to put the pieces together and make sure that we’re comfortable in terms of the layout, but I’m pretty sure it’s going to happen.”