Butler has opened a new food pantry to aid food-insecure students. Photo by Lauren Hough.
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On March 1, the Office of Student Involvement and Leadership, along with the Volunteer Center, launched a new initiative to fight food insecurity on Butler’s campus. Students who need it will be able to receive entirely free pre-packaged food on a weekly basis from the new Butler food pantry.
Frank Ross, vice president of student affairs, said that developing a program to face food insecurity had been a priority for a while, but COVID-19 exacerbated the need. Ross sought to collect survey data from students on a variety of their needs to evaluate food insecurity on campus and solidified plans to develop a food pantry program.
“We were finding students, telling us through their responses in the survey, that there are students at Butler for whom food security is an issue, and not having access consistently to nutritious food was a barrier for them and their success,” Ross said.
Caroline Huck-Watson, the executive director of student involvement and leadership, has taken care of the logistics aspects of coordinating the project, such as managing all the staff involved and mobilizing the various sects of campus needed. Huck-Watson also conducted a substantial portion of the research required to build an effective program.
The initial funding for the food pantry has come from the budget for Student Affairs, which will continue to be a resource as donations and fundraising campaigns are added.
Brooke Blevins, a senior human communication and organizational leadership major, is an intern for the office of student involvement and leadership and the student director of the volunteer center. Blevins has assisted Huck-Watson in the larger planning of the program and also leads the student staff at the volunteer center, who are responsible for packaging and distributing food.
“Being able to be a part of something that I hope and expect to have a long-lasting impact and something that can grow to serve more and more people and offer different types of resources in the future, it’s really rewarding,” Blevins said.
Ross, Huck-Watson and Blevins all said they could see the food pantry involving other organizations on campus as the program develops. A food drive is currently being organized so that others in the Butler community can contribute to the project. Ross said he will also be looking to Butler staff and alumni for future donations. He has already received communication from those in the Butler community who wish to give their assistance.
While the program currently offers varying amounts of packaged, non-perishable food on a weekly basis, all sources said there are opportunities to expand. Ross said offering food more frequently might be an option and Huck-Watson said she would like to see fresh produce and refrigerated foods offered.
The food pantry is part of a network of programs on campus to help students in need. There is also a free toiletry pantry program operating out of the Diversity Center as well as an emergency fund that students can apply to for short-term or emergency financial assistance.
Huck-Watson said that this project is part of a larger initiative to give Butler students what they need to be successful academically. She hopes that new programs can be created to serve needs as they arise.
“There are a lot of opportunities and I think really what I hope is that our students are going to be able to let us know what some of those things are, as well, so that we can really truly meet those needs,” Huck-Watson said.
To meet the goal of providing for any and all student needs, the food pantry program is committed to serving as many students as request the service. There is no limit on the amount of students that the food pantry can help.
All students have to do to utilize the food pantry resources is fill out a Google form and then pick up their food at a scheduled time in Atherton Union. Students do not need to prove a need in order to request food.
Ross said that his and Butler’s priority has always been improving the student experience and access to success.
“If we can help students that are in need and help provide them food, so they can focus on their education, that’s what my priority is,” Ross said.