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A campus food pantry opens Thursday in the former ticket booth, southeast of Hanson Field.
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Food Pantry for WIU Community Opens March 29

March 27, 2018


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MACOMB, IL – In the spirit of Western Illinois University's core value of social responsibility, a group of volunteers have spent several months developing the WIU Food Pantry. The pantry will provide free, nonperishable food items to the WIU community beginning Thursday, March 29.

The WIU Food Pantry is housed in the former ticket booth, southeast of Hanson Field. The pantry will be open from noon-5 p.m. every Thursday for the remainder of the spring 2018 semester. During the summer, the pantry will remain open to accommodate students attending summer school. For the Fall 2018 semester, hours of operation will expand to provide additional services. Food is available to all individuals with a valid WIU identification card, regardless of income. There is also currently a student-run food pantry on WIU's Quad Cities campus in Building C.

The idea for the pantry was born after Mandi McRaven, who works in the University Union, approached Dietetics Assistant Professor Emily Shupe about the need for a food pantry on campus. Through McRaven's position at the University, she mentors students and said she learned many, particularly those who live off campus, were having difficulty affording food.

"I started to realize there was a need on our Macomb campus," said McRaven. "University Housing and Dining Services does an awesome job of providing resources for students on campus, but some of our students don't live on campus and have meal plans. I learned through some research that many campuses are opening food banks, and I thought 'Why not us?'"

Shupe said she is passionate about the food pantry project because food insecurity is a concern among students that she sees first-hand. Shupe identified food insecurity as a problem that is not going away and has continued to worsen over the past few years.

"Students know that I keep food in my office, and that they are always welcome to it," said Shupe. "I have spoken to many individuals across campus who also go out of their way to help students by providing food or means to acquire food."

The food pantry has been evolving over the past 18 months. Shupe began working with three dietetics students, Anthony White, Anna Fee and Jim Morrison, who volunteered their time to help identify campus needs through a student survey. The survey was sent out in May 2017, with 661 students responding. The survey identified that 48 percent of students had reported going hungry in the past 30 days and 43 percent reporting skipping at least one meal per day over a three-month period. The survey also identified that 62 percent of respondents would utilize a food pantry on the Macomb campus.

The results of the survey sparked WIU School of Agriculture students to hold a food drive during the University's Homecoming celebration in late September, in conjunction with the WIU Homecoming Committee and Homecoming participants. Items were collected during the cardboard boat regatta, the variety show and spirit games, which brought in more than 1,100 pounds of food to kick off the food bank. 

"Our group decided to do the food drive because we felt like, after seeing the survey, that we should join together to help each other out so we can succeed in our future careers," said WIU junior agriculture major Kylee Johnston, of Memphis, MO. 

Through many meetings and focus groups, it was determined that the operations of the food pantry would be run by the "WIU Food Pantry" student organization. Shupe and Alumni House Staff Clerk Carrie Lowderman will serve as the organization's advisers.

The student organization will be responsible for the daily operations for the pantry, including procurement, staffing, inventory, sanitation, policy and procedures. The organization is currently developing a website, which will provide a list of current inventories, location, hours of operations and resources for participants.

"I have been an educator in dietetics for the past 14 years. I work with very talented students who routinely provide nutrition information and cooking demonstrations to the public," said Shupe. "I would like to post videos that provide nutrition information regarding the food available in the pantry, as well as showing dietetic students demonstrative cooking. The cooking videos will utilize the food from the pantry and demonstrate how to prepare different dishes. I would also like to incorporate a way for individuals to donate to the food pantry through the website."

Donations to the pantry effort can be made by contacting Shupe at ER-Shupe@wiu.edu or by mailing donations, made out to the WIU Food Pantry, to Shupe at 140 Knobaluch Hall, 1 University Circle, Macomb, IL 61455.



Posted By: Jodi Pospeschil (JK-Pospeschil@wiu.edu)
Office of University Relations