Lander University unveiled its new “Bear Necessities Food Pantry” Wednesday (September 9) to address the problem of food insecurity among its students.
A crowd of University students, faculty and staff were joined by community leaders, including S.C. Sen. Floyd Nicholson and S.C. Rep. Anne Parks, for the unveiling of the sign showcasing the pantry’s name, chosen by student input and 605 student votes.
“It’s the ‘dream come true day’ for us,” said Dr. Boyd Yarbrough, Lander’s vice president for Student Affairs. “The campus has been working to address the problem of food insecurity for several years. Today is the culmination of this work. Seeing the scores of students who have come through to be served by the Food Pantry and seeing the community celebrating with us is phenomenal.”
Lander President Dr. Richard Cosentino said he is gratified by the support. “Having the Food Pantry means that our students can focus on their education and not be worried about where they’ll find their next meal. As an individual who experienced not having enough food to eat when I was growing up, this day means a lot to me.”
Lander is working with the Food Bank of Greenwood County to develop the site and supply it with food contributions. Wendi Andrews, the Food Bank executive director, said the community organization will collect food items and deliver them to campus.
“Students should not be hungry while trying to secure their education,” she said. “This effort is about improving the quality of life for students and their academic life. We are so pleased to be part of this partnership.”
Dr. Lorraine Angelino of the Lander Foundation Board of Directors announced that a $1,000 grant from the Rotary Foundation and an additional $1,000 from the Rotary Club of Emerald City will support the purchase of a new refrigerator and a freezer, as well as other needs, for the campus food pantry. The Lander Rotaract Club, a Rotary organization for young people, is involved with the service project.
“This reminds me of when I was a student and went many days without food,” said Angelino, who, as an adjunct faculty member at Lander, would help students when they were hungry.
“You can’t focus when you’re hungry. I know what it is like for students not to have food,” said Angelino, who also conducted a personal fundraiser that netted $2,000 for the new food pantry.
A task force, formed by Yarbrough to study the level of food insecurity on campus, found that nearly 26 percent of Lander students participating in the study reported not eating for an entire day during the last 30 days. Of those students, 57 percent reported not eating for four days or more during the last 30 days, he said.
A 2017 report, “Hunger on Campus,” by the Association of American Colleges and Universities, found that at least 48 percent of college students faced food insecurity in the previous month, with 22 percent saying that they went hungry.
Since the Bear Necessities Food Pantry’s soft opening last week, 62 students have been served. Yarbrough shared a senior student’s comment that this was the first time he had access to food on a daily basis since his freshman year.
Zach Woods, president of Lander’s Student Government Association, said the opening marked “a great stepping stone for more students to have access to meals and the opportunity to connect with the community.”
Woods praised the public and private partnerships that made the day possible. “This is one of the highest priorities for us,” he said. “It means the world to me, and it will mean the world to students in the future.”
While the ribbon cutting ceremony for the Bear Necessities Food Pantry is significant, Yarbrough said, “This is not a celebration of reaching a milestone or reaching the finish line. This is just a start.”
In partnership with Team ImpAct from Leadership Greenwood, Lander is developing plans for an annual “Music for Meals” fundraiser for the Bear Necessities Food Pantry, Yarbrough said, and will also be studying the problem of homelessness among college students.