College is difficult for many students, but it becomes an even greater challenge for students facing homelessness and poverty.
Kennesaw State’s Campus Awareness, Resource and Empowerment Services inaugurated the new walk-in pantry early in February in the Joe Mack Wilson Student Center.
CARE Services opened the new pantry to meet the growing demand of students facing food insecurity at the Marietta campus, CARE Services Director Marcy Stidum said.
The service centre offers support to students who are dealing with homelessness and food insecurity and students who were previously or are currently in foster care. Stidum said that CARE provides case management, access to the campus pantry and personal care items, and it assists in temporary and permanent housing.
The CARE pantries help provide nutritious meals to students who are food insecure, meaning that they do not know when or where their next meal will come from. Stidum said the new pantry has already surmounted its weekly average of student shoppers during its first week of opening.
“We see about 25 students per month,” Stadium said. “I would like to get that up to 60 to 75 per month.”
Since its start, CARE Services has helped over a thousand students at KSU, many of whom had been forced to cut out breakfast and dinner and mainly focus on lunch, Stidum said.
Among CARE Services’ beneficiaries is a mechanical engineering student who graduated in December 2018. Stidum said he used CARE Services for three years as his main source of food support. Some services included shopping the pantry and using donated swipes to the dining facilities on both campuses.
The Marietta CARE pantry now provides students with frozen meals from The Commons and toiletries for the duration of the month.
Some of the service centre’s biggest concerns are issues with supply and demand and staffing. Stidum said many students choose the same products, so it is hard to find a balance for donations with the increase in traffic flow. The majority of the food donated is from students, faculty and staff.
“All of the donation money is restricted, as by design, only for students,” Stadium said. “So, when I say I want to hire more staff, I don’t have the money.”
Stidum said that CARE Services relies on the Federal Work-Study Program and volunteers for staffing.
Stidum started at the KSU Counseling Center in 2010 where she met a student, “Penelope,” who was homeless. She was in awe of Penelope’s ability to go to school while homeless.
“I was very impressed by her and her resiliency and tenacity to do it even though she was homeless, but also humbled by the fact that I was trying to help her,” Stadium said. “But then I was like, ‘Are there more students like you?’”
After Stadium helped Penelope, 15 other homeless students came to her for help. Stidum then had the idea to start an organization to specifically help students who are homeless, have food insecurity and who were or are currently in foster care.
Stidum said CARE Services received a donation to start funding of the program in 2013. Since then, $300,000 has been contributed to the program. Last year alone, $50,000 went straight to the students.
Thousands of homeless and food insecure students have been helped through KSU’s CARE Services already, and Stidum hopes to see continued growth, changing lives along the way.