Marshall opens food pantry downtown

Students, faculty, staff and community members will have a new source of hunger relief starting today at a food pantry created by the Marshall University Department of Dietetics at 233 Pullman Center in downtown Huntington.

Alicia Fox, director of Marshall’s Nutrition Education Program, said university students are often a food-insecure population because many assume students in college are able to afford food. She said a large number of students support themselves through college, many working full-time jobs and some providing for children. If student loans are no longer an option, college students may have nowhere to turn.

“They say roughly 50 percent of college students are food insecure, meaning they don’t always know where their next meal is going to come from,” Fox said.

Fox said if students can’t afford costly dining hall plans through the university, many regularly buy their groceries at the dollar store. She said members of the Marshall student body and community need a food source they can depend on.   

“We’ve had people already reaching out to us with students in their college asking when our food pantry is going to open because they have students who need food,” Fox said. “That says something because people are looking for food and they don’t know where to get it.”

Kelli Williams, chair of Marshall’s Department of Dietetics, said the pantry will also provide information on simple nutrition principles and healthy recipes that utilize some of the products available at the pantry. She said the department has worked with Facing Hunger Food Bank in the past to develop nutrition education messages. Williams said they hope to diminish the number of hungry people, especially on Marshall’s campus.

“When they’re studying and they’re in college, we don’t want that to be a factor that is problematic for them,” Williams said. “If we can eliminate that, then they can devote more time to learning and studying. They can be better nourished, which helps them to do those things better.”

Although Marshall previously had a food pantry on campus, it closed in October 2016 due to accessibility problems. Fox said it was difficult for students to visit and receive food inconspicuously because the pantry was located in the Memorial Student Center.

Although the Department of Dietetics will ask individuals who visit the new food pantry to sign in, Fox said they will not require formal identification. She said there are guidelines for how many items from each food group guests may pick up, but the pantry will welcome anyone who is in need of food.

Fox said the pantry will be open 2 to 4 p.m. on Tuesdays and 9 to 11 a.m. every Thursday. The pantry accepts non-perishable food donations or monetary contributions to purchase food from Facing Hunger Food Bank.

Caroline Kimbro can be contacted at [email protected]