March 26, 2012

New food pantry caters specifically to students

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Sometimes college students find the cupboards a bit bare and the billfold a bit on the empty side.

Thanks to the initiative and work of Southern Illinois University Carbondale student Loran Luehr, there’s now a food pantry to help the University’s students at just such times.  Luehr secured a Leadership Grant from the United Methodist Church of Carbondale and working with the University’s Wesley Council, a registered student organization and campus ministry, the Wesley Foundation Food Pantry was born.

The pantry opened recently at 816 S. Illinois Ave. in Carbondale, next to Quigley Hall and across from UniversiTEEs.  Any current SIU Carbondale student may come to the pantry with their student ID once a month during regular hours and get two bags of non-perishable groceries and toiletry items. 

The pantry is open Monday through Thursday from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. and also on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings from 5 to 7.  There will be daytime hours only during the summer.

Thanks to the $1,500 Leadership Grant as well as donations of about $400 in cash and $400 in items, the pantry is fully stocked and already about 25 students have availed themselves of the supplies.  Sherry Smedshammer, director of the Wesley Foundation, oversees operations during the daytime hours and Luehr takes care of the shop in the evenings. 

Luehr, a senior human nutrition and dietetics major from Steeleville and a 2011 REACH Award winner, said she wants to get the word out so more students in need take advantage of the opportunity to get help.  Donations are also welcome to continue the work and people can drop them off at the pantry when it is open.  Luehr is hopeful that in the future, as the stock grows, students will be able to visit the pantry every other week if they need to.  She said toiletries including diapers, shampoo and body wash, are particularly popular. 

The idea for the pantry originated with Luehr and her research work at the University.  She has been studying the effectiveness of food sustainability education for students in fourth, sixth and eighth grades.  She taught a four-week program at the Trico Elementary School for fourth graders and at Unity Point School for the older grades, focusing on four aspects of food sustainability:  local foods, gardening, recycling and world hunger.  She said her primary focus was on sustaining food supplies for the future.  With thoughts of world hunger and food sustainability on her mind, she began thinking of how the downturn in the economy has resulted in the closure of some local food pantries.

“This made me realize that there has never been, to my knowledge, a food pantry solely for college students at SIU Carbondale.  I thought this is a need someone needs to do something about because there are students who go to bed hungry at night, especially students who have families.  I proceeded to write the proposal and received the grant,” Luehr said.  “So far, it has been such a blessing and I hope to find a career where I am able to help people in a similar capacity one day.”

For more information about the Wesley Foundation Food Pantry, stop by when it’s open, email or call 618/453-8165.