Photo: From left, Bethel College President Jon Gering, vice president for student life Samuel Haynes and vice president for institutional advancement Brad Kohlman cut the ribbon for Bethel’s new student food pantry. Photo by Taylor Brown.
Bethel College vice president for student life Samuel Haynes hadn’t been in his job very long when two students approached him about a problem they had encountered.
Social work majors Akiyaa Hagen-Depusoir and Sophia Minder, then juniors, had become aware that hunger was an issue for some students at the college in North Newton, Kansas. They wanted to start a campus food pantry.
“Sam took this on, even with a lot of other projects,” said Bethel College President Jon Gering at the food pantry’s opening Nov. 4, about a year after the idea was first raised. “Think about your own favorite meal – maybe something you make or your mother or a friend might make. Fellowshipping around the table makes me feel energized. That sense of wellbeing is what I want for our students.”
Bethel joins more than 640 other colleges and universities across the country who are adding or have added a food pantry to the services offered to students.
According to the College & University Food Bank Alliance, low-income students are enrolling in college at increasing rates; 39% of undergraduate students were at or below 130% of the federal poverty guideline; and the majority of college students are classified as “nontraditional,” meaning they fit one or more of six criteria that include “single parent” and “must provide for dependents.”
All these things add up to a need to assist more students with basic daily necessities.
The Bethel College food pantry is also open to faculty and staff. It will have daily hours, and will operate on the honor system. Four student volunteers will oversee stocking and other maintenance.
At the food pantry’s opening, Haynes pointed out the broad support that has already come in terms of financial and food donations, including from Bethel College Mennonite Church members and from Aladdin Food Services (the dining hall contractor).
“The most remarkable has been the care and support of our students,” Haynes said, “starting with Akiyaa and Sophia and extending to our student volunteers and others.”