MU’s First Food Pantry Open

Kailene Nye, Reporter

McAuley’s Market, the university’s first food pantry, is open and distributing food to the campus community.

Senior occupational therapy major Kristin Kuntzman originally raised the idea of a food pantry for the campus community about a year ago when she volunteered for Dinners with Kids and saw, firsthand, the issue of food insecurity. So she began to research food insecurity among the people in the campus community.

“I was alarmed at what I was finding,” Kuntzman said.

Kuntzman conducted a survey last year to assess campus needs.

She found that that 25% of students, faculty, and staff had experienced a time when they did not have enough food for themselves or their households, and about 38% knew of someone else on campus who had experienced a lack of food.

A study by the National Student Campaign Against Hunger and Homelessness found that 56% of first-generation college students experience food insecurity.

Many other Pennsylvania universities and colleges have added food pantries to to meed the food needs of their communities, according to an article the Allentown Morning Call. Schools include Kutztown University, East Stroudsburg University, Millersville University, Mansfield University, and others.

Christine Somers, Director of Campus Ministry, said she immediately supported the idea of a campus food pantry.

“We know that a good portion of students are first-generation students and come from middle class or working-class families that, like many people, live paycheck to paycheck. Other students have very unique financial situations and they struggle even more. We would hope college can be accessible to those students as well, as so we would like to support our students and some of their needs.”

Somers added that the pantry, which officially opened Jan. 25, is open to everyone.

“The reason we have it open for staff as well, is that we recognize that some of our employees as well struggle financially and have situations that are unique,” she said.

Kuntzman said the process was long, and she worried that all of her work would be for nothing.

“I wanted to hope that a food pantry was not necessary in general for our campus population, and if that was the case, I would have been happy that people were not in need. When that was not the case as per the survey results, it drove me to work harder to address the need and get it done.”

She expressed gratitude toward everyone who helped her, saying she was not the only one who accomplished this important goal.

“It was truly remarkable who all came through to help me with this idea,” she said. “Ultimately, I would like to say that it was none of us but a God who saw a need and wanted to provide to others through us as willing beings. That is why this process has been so cool for me to be a part of.”

Kuntzman said she thinks the pantry is off to a good start, as people have been donating, and those who have visited have a had a positive experience.

She said the food pantry aligns with the university’s mission.

“We are a university that embodies care for all, and hard times do not discriminate. Hospitality is about opening a space for others without condition. Feeding someone that is hungry is always the right thing to do and it does not matter what their status is. It is important to have a pantry because it is important to reach people in our community when there is a need,” she explained.

Isaac Glidewell, freshman mass communications and design student, said he thinks having McAuley’s Market may also prevent food from going to waste.

“I feel it is good to have a pantry on campus,” he said. “It’s fantastic because it is less food that could potentially be wasted or unused.”

He said the pantry is also a duty.

“I feel a food pantry is absolutely fantastic because it benefits those less fortunate. We not only as a college but as a community have a duty to aid those in need.”

Somers said she hopes this process has taught Kuntzman the value of working toward her goals and serving others.

“I hope Kristin learned that you are able to have great ideas and dreams and see them come true,” she said. “I think she learned the process of working with many staff and administrators here at MU to have this project come to fruition. I believe she knows the value and meaning of helping others and serving others.”

Kuntzman said as she prepares to leave the university, she hopes the people who helped her launch McAuley’s Market will be around to keep it going as long as it is needed.

“It was such a blessing when Campus Ministry took it on as one of their ministries. The support they give towards it gives me confidence that it will be in the best hands for as long as it needs to be,” she said. “As long as there is a need, I would hope that McAuley Market will run. I hope that it shows people that they do not have to go far to help someone in need. I hope it holds true to mercy, service, justice and hospitality,” Kuntzman said.

She is grateful for the many lessons she learned.

“I am just very thankful for what this experience has taught me and how it has helped me grow. God’s provision is overwhelming to me, but in a good way. Like I previously said, I wish it were not the case that McAuley’s Market was necessary, but I truly hope that it stands as long as a need is present.”

Staff and students worked in collaboration with the Office of Mission Integration, Student Life, and the project team from the Staff Leadership Development Program to open the market, which is located on the lower level of McAuley-Walsh in the hallway of the Career Center.

The pantry is open Tuesdays from 2 to 4:30 p.m. for students and Fridays from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. for faculty and staff, or upon requests  to Campus Ministry or the dean’s office.

Donations will be accepted from 3 to 4 p.m. on Fridays, and volunteers will accept toiletry and non-perishable items such as peanut butter, cereal, pasta, soup and canned vegetables.