August 12, 2016

Saluki Food Pantry designed to meet students’ needs

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Southern Illinois University Carbondale is taking steps to ensure the nutritional needs of students are being met. 

The Saluki Food Pantry will open in the lower level of the Student Center in time for the fall semester, which begins Aug. 22. 

Chancellor Brad Colwell, who announced plans for the food pantry last spring, said, “We have a responsibility to ensure our students’ needs – including access to nutritional foods -- are met so they can focus on academic and career success. I encourage the SIU community to contribute to this important undertaking.” 

The easiest way to get to the food pantry is to take the elevators or stairs near Starbucks to the lower level of the Student Center. The location is designed to be easily accessible and centrally located for student convenience, yet situated so that students are able to discreetly secure food to meet their needs. 

Any student currently enrolled at SIU, when presenting a student ID, will be able to visit the pantry once a month for food items and essential toiletries to supplement their needs. While the chancellor’s office is providing support for the pantry, in order to meet all needs, donations are being sought. They can be dropped off at the food pantry during operating hours or at the Innovation and Sustainability Hub, located on the first floor of the Student Center. 

There currently isn’t refrigeration in the pantry, so suggested items include: pasta sauce, soup, beans, canned fruit and vegetables, peanut butter, jelly, whole-grain breads, breakfast/protein bars, cereal, hand or body soap, toothpaste and toothbrushes, deodorant, toilet paper, tissues, paper towels, detergent, shampoo/conditioner, and canned meats such as tuna, chicken and ravioli. Also, reusable bags or plastic bags are welcomed for students to use to transport the items. 

In addition, volunteers are needed to help stock and distribute the items to students. Those wanting to help, or obtain more information, can contact Sara Sauerhage, a graduate assistant who will serve as Saluki Food Pantry coordinator, at

Initially, the pantry will be open twice a week for three hours. Plans call for it to be open each Monday from 3 to 6 p.m. and from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Tuesdays. Updated schedules and other information can be found at

While working on her master’s degree in nutrition at SIU, Loran Luehr Morris conducted a research study in 2013, polling students from SIU, Eastern Illinois University, Northern Illinois University and Western Illinois University to determine how many reported that they had “food insecurity.” She defines food insecurity as a condition in which someone has the inability to obtain an adequate amount of food and sufficient nutrition. 

Morris received nearly 1,900 responses and found that 35 percent of the respondents were “food insecure.” Even before then, concerns about students having enough to eat led Morris to secure a Leadership Grant through the United Methodist Church of Carbondale and work with SIU’s Wesley Council, a registered student organization and campus ministry, to establish the Wesley Foundation Food Pantry in early 2012. Morris, a Steeleville native, earned her bachelor’s degree in human nutrition and dietetics that year and two years later received her master’s degree in nutrition at SIU. She is now a registered dietitian. 

“The Prevalence of Food Security and Insecurity Among Illinois University Students,” a research article with Morris as the lead author, will soon be published by the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior. Co-authors of the piece that details Morris’ research and findings include Sylvia Smith and Jeremy Davis, both associate professors of animal science, food and nutrition, and Dawn Bloyd Null, wellness coordinator for Student Health Services. 

Officials said a 2014 report by Feeding America, a national network of food pantries, found 3 million college students don’t have continuous access to nutritious food. Null said that the needs at SIU are similar to those at other universities, but SIU wants to do everything possible to alleviate the problem for its students. Campus officials want to assure that students can focus on success and their future. Null noted that although food insecurity is most common among off-campus students, even those with meal plans who live in on-campus housing may still have food issues during breaks. 

Representatives from the Wesley Foundation Food Pantry are working with SIU officials to assure the two pantries complement one another for the benefit of the students. The university is minimizing the cost for the new Saluki Food Pantry by using shelving from a former Student Center convenience store and by having existing staff and volunteers operate the pantry. Community donations will also defray expenses and grant funding will be sought. 

The goal, at least in the beginning, is to be able to provide a three-day supply of food to all students who utilize the pantry. As supplies allow, that will be adjusted. In the future, officials hope to partner with local farmers and vendors as well as other food pantries to meet student needs. 

“Over time, we would like to expand the food pantry’s offerings to include fresh food selections,” Geory Kurtzhals, sustainability coordinator, said. “In addition, we plan to leverage the extensive knowledge within our institution to improve our food pantry and provide learning opportunities for students.” 

Students, faculty or staff who are interested in partnering or collaborating can contact Kurtzhals at