On Oct. 12, The Eagle’s Nest will hold its grand opening in Union Plaza from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The University of Southern Mississippi School of Social Work’s newly-founded nonprofit food pantry intends to offer USM residents and commuters access to free food when needed.
With the event, the pantry will commence its efforts to assist with food insecurity among USM students, faculty and staff, according to graduate student intern Jennifer Martin.
“We are trying to help [the community out],” she said. “Everybody’s been down on their luck at different points in their lives. We want [food insecurity] to be one less thing they have to worry about.”
Martin said the event will have games, food and student organizations booths will be present at the event.
“The event will be lots of students just having fun and playing games,” she said. “We’re hoping to raise awareness around campus and let everybody know that we are open and our services are here.”
According to Martin, The Eagle’s Nest recently partnered with Extra Table – a Hattiesburg nonprofit organization that distributes supplies to food pantries and soup kitchens – which plans to contribute to the grand opening and future events.
Martin said The Eagle’s Nest conducted approximately 100 surveys on the Hattiesburg campus to determine the necessity of an open food pantry.
“[The surveys] identified the need,” she said. “And then we kind of started rolling really fast with everything. It was mainly word of mouth, hearing students say, ‘Yeah, I had to dumpster dive for food.’ If there are students having to dumpster dive, we need this.”
The Eagle’s Nest intends to conduct a thorough campus needs assessment by visiting the school departments and conducting surveys, according to Martin.
The pantry will operate on a “client’s choice” system by which each visitor can take food items of his or her choice from each food group to build balanced meals.
According to Martin, the pantry will provide services to help visitors sign up for food stamps, Medicaid and health insurance.
Martin said The Eagle’s Nest is a “dream come true” for her because she enjoys her area of studies.
“My focus is resources and programs for students or for people who need that extra hand to restart,” Martin said. “Because I’ve had people step in during that time for me, and I know it was life-changing.”
Eagle’s Nest co-chair Carlie Moon, who took donations outside Wal- Mart with Martin, said she began contributing to the pantry because she is “in the helping profession.”
“We do stuff like this – manage finances and [take donations] at Wal-Mart – to help others,” Moon said.
According to Martin, The Eagle’s Nest plans to organize an annual event and involve Hattiesburg community members.
More information about The Eagle’s Nest can be found on the organization’s Facebook page.