The University of North Georgia’s Dahlonega campus has opened a food pantry aimed at helping students and faculty in need of food.
Lauren Toebe, a senior art marketing major at UNG and the marketing intern for the Appalachian studies program, described how the food pantry came to be.
“In November of last year a student had looked at the [food pantry] model on the Gainesville campus and thought, ‘we need that here’,” Toebe recollected. “So a petition was sent around and meetings were held, and after going through it all we got it in motion.”
The food pantry is located in the Vickery House and open from Tuesday through Friday, 11 to 4 to any student, faculty member or staff member at UNG.
“Just because someone has a car or because they are in a Greek organization or a club does not mean that they may not be hungry when they leave school,” Toebe explained. “People prioritize what they need to pay for differently so we’re really encouraging anyone who needs it, who does skip meals and go hungry, to come in and feed themselves.”
Harlie Mccurley, a UNG graduate and current volunteer at the food pantry, further described the requirements to use the food pantry, as well as elaborated on how the program is being inclusive to students and faculty of all income levels.
“Anyone with a UNG ID can come to the food pantry,” Mccurley said. “There’s no income base – you don’t have to make or not make a certain amount to come and use the food pantry.”
Those who come to the food pantry are encouraged to take as much as they need for a week so they don’t feel like they have to come back as frequently.
Confidentiality at the food pantry is paramount—the food pantry doesn’t disclose the names of those who use it or any personal information the students give, and there is a safe place for all their documents.
Volunteers are accessible to help or answer questions, but those who come in are given space out of respect for their privacy.
Currently, the number of people using the food pantry varies, with Mccurley citing word of mouth among the student body as responsible for its growth. The hope is that the food pantry will continue to get larger as more people learn about it, and according to Toebe, the most important thing currently is getting word out to the students in need of food.
Ashley Kirby, a senior biology major and volunteer at the food pantry, described why other people should consider helping out the food pantry, explaining that the issue of hunger on the college campus is something people should know about.
“It’s a really important cause,” Kirby said. “There are people who are food insecure at this school and it’s not a well-known fact, but I think that if we spread the awareness then we can help solve the problem and work together as a community to help the students and faculty who are in need.”
According to Mccurley, the food pantry is in need of donations of gallons of milk, dry milk, cereals, protein bars, microwaveable meals, and small bags of rice, as well as non-food items such as feminine hygiene products, baby wipes, and toilet paper.
For someone interested in volunteering at the food pantry, there is a volunteer training session at the Vickery House on Wednesday, Jan. 25, at 4 p.m. Potential volunteers can also stop by the Vickery House anytime to talk to anyone who is working or they can contact Lauren Toebe at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“I think that hunger, specifically local hunger, is something a lot of us don’t realize happens, especially as college students,” Toebe said. “Food is accessible until it’s not – so it’s important to help those that it isn’t accessible to because it’s part of survival and it’s a basic thing we take as a right and as a given when really it isn’t.”