Senior sociology major Lessie Haney, a mother of five, knows how it feels to struggle with finances while in college.
So when Dr. Alison Simons, assistant professor of sociology, approached her about Texas Wesleyan’s food pantry, she jumped at the chance to help.
“She had told me about the food pantry and I thought it was phenomenal,” Haney said.
The idea for a food pantry has been tossed around for the past two years after it came to attention of graduate student Catherine Swiatocha that Dora’s both has limited hours and closes over the holiday and spring breaks, leaving hungry students on campus.
“Two years ago, we organized to feed Thanksgiving and then she had this great idea to set up what we call the hub,” Simons said. “It would be a food pantry and a resource for students who needed stuff to come to. It’s taken a little while to get it set up.”
After the Social Justice League completed a food drive last fall, half of the food donated remained at the Polytechnic United Methodist Church, and a campus food pantry was started.
“Our food pantry is now set up and we have a fair amount of food in it,” Simons said. “It’s down in the Fellowship Hall at the moment and we now have a board near the Fellowship Hall with the hours that we’re open. We’re only open at the moment when I have volunteers to come for it.”
Now the league is looking for volunteers since the food pantry can only be open when someone’s willing to work.
They’ve asked the church, the Black Student Association, Theatre Wesleyan, and students in the Introduction to Sociology classes, who are required to get 15 hours of service this semester, to assist with volunteering and donations.
“The more people that can help us the more the word gets out,” Simons said. “All we need is an hour a week.”
Eddie Castlow, a church member and food pantry volunteer, believes that the food pantry has two benefits on campus.
“The first way is to feed the students that are hungry and the second way is to learn more about volunteering and the people you go to college with,” Castlow said. “The best way for us all to be a better society is for us all to be better people. I think volunteering and working with people who may be in a different situation then you improves the person you are, especially when you’re in college, no matter the age you are.”
Both Castlow and Haney volunteer for the pantry because they feel it’s important for students not to be hungry.
“The students may have their schooling paid for but the finances for the food is not always there,” Haney said. “It just makes their lives a little bit easier and makes sure that they have food in their bellies while they study and work.”
Simons said the food pantry in between the church and the students when tackling this project.
“I think that it’s a Methodist university so they probably should have been working together all along, but I’m encouraged by it,” Castlow said. “It means that two different groups are taking a step to work together to solve a single issue.”
Simons, Castlow, and Haney all hope to see the pantry expand on campus and even into the community.
“I’d like to see it be able to reach out to the community around us,” Haney said. “You know that people are struggling so that could be a place that they could come to. With the Fellowship maybe it can make connections that bring immunizations, jobs, babysitting clubs, stuff like that can grow bigger and better.”
To sign up to volunteer at the food pantry, contact Dr. Alison Simons at firstname.lastname@example.org or go to PUMC Room 218.