Griff’s Food Locker opens its doors

Lynda Sukolsky stands in front of the shelves in Griff’s Food Locker. Photo by H.Carnahan/Setonian.

According to The National Student Campaign Against Hunger and Homelessness, 20 percent of students at four-year schools experience low food insecurity.

Griff’s Food Locker is meant to aid students who are experiencing food insecurity. Food insecurity, defined by USDA, is “lack of access by all people at all times to enough food for an active, healthy lifestyle.”

“We are viewing the food locker as any other service for students on campus,” said Lynda Sukolsky, director of the academic achievement center. “For example, if you need a book you go to the library, if you need a Band-Aid you go to Health Services, if you need a jar of peanut butter come to Griff’s.”

Located in Maura 105, the food pantry launched on Jan. 24. “Breaking the ice” is the biggest challenge so far, Sukolsky said. The food locker is open to any student with a valid student ID. All information is confidential, and no questions are asked.

During the first visit students will fill out a form and receive a locker number and shopping bag for future visits. “We do want to try and capture what is happening on our campus,” Sukolsky said.

“Do people have adequate resources for enough food? It’s not they don’t necessarily have food, but do they have enough food?” Sukolsky said. “Some of the things that stood out, because they did this whole big survey in 2016, was that the number of resident college students that qualified as food insecure was pretty high. You wouldn’t think that because you’ve got food on campus.”

You can choose up to 10 items at each visit. Most items count as one item, but others, like ramen and granola bars, are a three-for-one deal. There are also free items, like bottles of water.

The locker offers walk-in hours every other Wednesday, between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. Sukolsky hopes to increase their availability as workers are on a volunteer basis. Appointments can be made ahead of time via email if a student’s schedule conflicts with those hours.

“That’s what we’re shooting for– nice and easy,” Sukolsky said. “To me, it’s a perfect space. There’s room to move around, it’s off the beaten path, but not in the remote far corner of campus. We’re really pleased with being able to have this space. It’s not fancy and we don’t need it to be fancy, but that’s a good thing. You just come in and get some food.”

Sigma Tau Delta, SHU’s chapter of the International English Honors Society, started a food drive in the fall to provide a “bulk of the food” for the locker. The MISO Food Festival held a collection, as well as the resident assistants at their Christmas party, which “really helped tremendously.” They have also received individual donations “here and there” and have gone shopping twice to “fill in the gaps” and “have a good variety.”

The food locker is always accepting donations of non-perishable food items. These can include canned food, crackers or cereal.

“Last spring, I was at a conference and there were a couple other schools talking about how they would put snacks out, and they would just disappear,” Sukolsky said. “Other schools would chime in and say ‘you know, we started a food bank on campus.’”

“It really was eye-opening to say the least,” Sukolsky said. “We became members [with College and University Food Bank Alliance] about October, maybe November.”

As of January, there are 582 members of CUFBA.

“I sat on it just a little bit, and it didn’t go away,” Sukolsky said. “So I went to President Finger. She was from the get-go supportive, just fabulous. From there she helped, we put together a steering committee… we’ve been working since April/May of last spring. We did not want to go fast. We wanted to research, we wanted to talk to other schools that are doing this, schools that are about our size, and really kind of know what we were in for. We took our time.”

The steering committee consists of six SHU staff members: Lisa Carino, Doreen Tracy, Christine Cusick, Hank Crawford, Keisha Jimmerson and Sukolsky.

“They really have worked hard,” Sukolsky said. “Everybody has just been very thoughtful in what direction we want to go. You can shape this in so many different ways, so it’s thinking what’s going to go best for our campus, for our students, so that it can be successful.”

For more information, or to schedule an appointment, contact griffsfoodlocker@setonhill.edu.

Published By: Stephen Dumnich

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