A new resource through the Butler University Volunteer Center aims to help alleviate food insecurity on campus.
The Butler Food Pantry opened this month in Atherton Union, Room 100. Staffed by student members of the University’s Volunteer Center, the pantry provides free, nonperishable food packages for any Butler student in need of assistance.
“Combating food insecurity is an important way for us to support student success and ensure all students can thrive,” says Dr. Frank E. Ross, Vice President for Student Affairs. “The Butler Food Pantry meets a fundamental need, enabling students to focus on what matters most: a robust educational experience. Students nationwide are facing food insecurity, and that need has been exacerbated by the pandemic. I am grateful that the Food Pantry is here to serve and support Butler students’ holistic well-being.”
The basic needs of college students have received more attention from researchers in recent years, with many studies examining factors such as hunger. According to the College & University Food Bank Alliance (CUFBA), about 30 percent of college students experience food insecurity, and recent surveys administered by Butler’s Division of Student Affairs have shown this issue also impacts students at Butler. The new Food Pantry is dedicated to providing free, nutritious foods to help students thrive.
Packages are distributed on Wednesdays and Fridays every other week, and all Butler students are eligible to request one box per distribution week. Students in need of food assistance can place orders in advance, indicating their desired pick-up time, box size, and dietary needs. The Volunteer Center is committed to maintaining the privacy of students who utilize the Food Pantry, and all staff members have signed confidentiality agreements.
Those who would like to support the pantry will have the opportunity to do so, either through monetary gifts or the donation of food items.
The new resource has been in the works for a little over a year, starting in late 2019 with assessments that found a demonstrated need for food assistance among Butler students. Caroline Huck-Watson, Executive Director of Student Involvement & Leadership at Butler, also attended local workshops on launching food pantries, conducted research to learn about similar services at other universities, and referenced national resources such as CUFBA.
“This is something I personally feel very passionate about, and there have been students and other staff who have also felt very passionate about this, so it’s exciting to see this come to fruition,” Huck-Watson says.
Throughout the process, Huck-Watson has partnered with Brooke Blevins, a Butler senior who serves as Student Director of the Volunteer Center. The Human Communication and Organizational Leadership major, who initially got involved with the Volunteer Center through a Fall Alternative Break trip in her first semester, says volunteering and service have shaped her time at Butler. That experience has culminated this year in her leadership of the Food Pantry, which she has been able to turn into both an internship and the focus of her Honors thesis.
“This project has really consumed my life in the best way possible,” Blevins says. “Working on the Food Pantry has been incredible. I’m grateful for the chance to put my time and energy into something so useful, and I’ve already been hearing from students who are so excited about this resource.”
In addition to assisting with research on best practices for campus food pantries, Blevins has helped train the Volunteer Center students who are staffing the pantry, plan logistics for box packing and pick-ups, and spread the word about the new service. She has enjoyed learning more about what goes on behind the scenes to develop, launch, and communicate about a campus-wide initiative. The experience has gone hand-in-hand with her academic studies.
“In my major-related classes, so much of it is just learning about effective ways that groups work together, and effective ways to communicate different ideas,” she says. “Having that background and textbook knowledge has been very applicable to working with so many different people to get things done and get this resource up and running as quickly as possible.”
Huck-Watson says the Food Pantry will continue to evolve based on feedback. All students who use the service will be invited to complete surveys about their experience, which will help staff members learn more about how to meet needs effectively. And while the current pick-up-only system was developed with pandemic restrictions in mind, the team plans to adapt to any changing safety protocols over the coming months to find what works best for Butler.
“This resource is vital when we think about a person’s basic needs—what they need to be successful in their everyday lives, academic lives, and co-curricular lives,” Huck-Watson says. “The ability to help students supplement those needs, and hopefully to remove some of the stress that’s involved with food insecurity, is so important.”
To make a monetary donation to the Butler University Food Pantry, click here.
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