To bring awareness to food insecurity, the Student Association of Social Workers and the Eagle’s Nest hosted an event on Nov. 14 to kick off the 2019 National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week.
“When the recession hit, I found myself living in my car with my dog,” Clare Cady, director of the College and University Food Bank Alliance, said. “I was looking for a job, and I found a job on a college campus that was looking at trying to help hungry and homeless college students.”
The CUFBA is an organization focused on partnering with campus-based programs to help address food insecurity, hunger and poverty among college students. The CUFBA has partnered with the Eagle’s Nest food pantry over the past three years to build a program for students, faculty and staff who are in need.
Data from Feeding America indicates one in five people in Mississippi struggle with hunger. The Eagle’s Nest food pantry works to provide relief to those struggling with food security.
College students struggling to access food also face a struggle in their school work.
“Students have learned to count on us being here,” associate professor Tamara Hurst, Ph.D., said. “Knowing they don’t have to worry all day long about where their food is going to come from allows them to concentrate on their studies.”
Hurst is the faculty mentor for the Eagle’s Nest food pantry and works alongside graduate assistants and interns.
“We have been open for three years, and our third anniversary was Oct. 12,” Hurst said. “We used [the CUFBA’s] toolkit to get things started.”
The CUFBA was co-founded by the Michigan State Student Food Bank and the Oregon State University Food Pantry. The group now consults with colleges and universities across the nation since 2012. Since then, the alliance partnered with the Hope Center for College, Community and Justice at Temple University and the Lumina Foundation.
To bring more awareness to hunger and homelessness in communities, the Student Association of Social Workers and the USM Eagle’s Nest kicked off the 2019 National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week with a presentation by Cady.
“People know there are people homeless. People know there are people hungry, but they often think of it as an abstract problem,” Cady said. “ Instead, now we can connect to things happening near us and find ways to contribute.”
In spring 2019, the Eagle’s Nest food pantry and Eagle Dining joined the Swipe Out Hunger program, which allows students to donate their Eagle Dining guest swipes to the food pantry. Students who want to donate swipes can fill out an application at the Eagle Dining office or the Eagle’s Nest food pantry.
The USM Eagle’s Nest is open on Wednesdays and Fridays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The pantry provides necessities including food, toiletries and hygiene products. The pantry is in continuous need of donations as well as volunteers due to how many people rely on the assistance the pantry provides.
“In September, we were averaging around 50 or 60 visits a day, and about 40% of that are repeat visitors,” Hurst said.
Raegan Varnado is a graduate assistant at the School and Social Work and one of the interns at the food pantry. Varnado is available to anyone with questions about donations and volunteering, and can be reached by email at Raegan.Varnado@usm.edu.
For more information about the Eagle’s Nest food pantry or donating swipes, call the Eagle’s Nest at 601-520-9733 or Eagle Dining at 601-266-5376.