By GALEN HAWES
ADA – Thanks to the incredible generosity of anonymous donors, East Central University’s Office of Student Development has launched its own campus-based food pantry to assist students, faculty and staff – just in time for the holidays.
“This is the heart of what we do and what we enjoy, getting to work behind the scenes to help people in need,” said Dr. Jerry Forbes, vice president of student development. “If you can lessen the burden for any person or family, then you should do it.”
ECU’s Office of Student Development is working with the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma to keep the pantry stocked with non-perishable food items and other personal necessities, such as hygiene products. A small group of anonymous donors is providing $1,000 per month to help keep the shelves stocked. One of the donors is an ECU graduate who commuted from the McAlester area while earning her degree.
“My sisters-in-law and I were looking for ways to make a positive difference,” said the donor, who said she wants to protect her anonymity. “We saw a segment on PBS about food insecurity on college campuses across the country. A lot of these students are walking a tightrope.”
That prompted the donors to approach the ECU Foundation in hopes of finding a way to help.
“This was just something we agreed we could do to make a positive impact across the board at ECU,” she said. “This is a well-defined and understood need and we are more than happy to serve that purpose.”
The food pantry isn’t just for traditional college students. It is also for parents attending college who are doing their best to finish their degrees while also providing for their families.
“It’s hard to spend money on school when you’re hungry,” Forbes said. “So any assistance we can give that single mom or dad who is struggling to earn a degree while raising kids may make all the difference in the world.”
The Regional Food Bank charges food pantries across the state a greatly reduced rate, basically 25 cents on the dollar. So ECU’s pantry is able to use the $1,000 donation to purchase about $4,000 worth of goods each month. In only a couple of days in December, ECU’s food pantry distributed a thousand pounds of goods to 70 patrons – demonstrating a clear need on campus.
“It’s hard to study on an empty stomach,” Forbes said. “The food pantry is here to relieve food insecurities. It’s all about helping them finish that degree, because when you finish your degree your life changes.”
ECU’s food pantry will be restocked on January 15. It will be open eight times each month, on Tuesdays and Fridays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in Room 255 of the Administration Building. An ECU I.D. is required to make a withdrawal from the pantry.
Photo: East Central University student Suyanka Pokharel of Biratnagar, Nepal, helps stock the shelves inside ECU’s new food pantry. Thanks to anonymous donors, the pantry is restocked each month to help offset food insecurities, an often unseen challenge on college campuses.