The BoBPantry at MSU relies upon student support and enthusiasm for the project. Not just as volunteers during pantry operating hours, but to help spread awareness of food insecurity and food waste on campus and to break down the stigma around hunger and receiving food assistance. The Food Resource Council student club is the driving force, the lifeblood, and the reason why the BoB Pantry has been so successful during its pilot year.
Over the weekend of March 24th-25th, 2018 I traveled to the Campus Kitchens Food Waste and Hunger Summit in Indianapolis with my VISTA supervisor, who is also the faculty advisor for the Food Resource Council (FRC) student club, along with three other students who are part of the FRC leadership team. This experience gave these students an opportunity to hear about other initiatives to alleviate food waste and food insecurity nationwide and helped reinvigorate their passion for the work that we are doing through the BoB Pantry.
At this conference, the FRC students and I presented on the Bounty of the Bridgers MSU Food Pantry, and we held a problem-solving decision making open house session. We asked that attendees of the session pair up, present a problem or obstacle that they have been facing to their partner, and discuss potential solutions with their partner. This activity gave individuals an opportunity to receive an outside perspective on obstacles or barriers that they have been facing and a chance to talk about their problems with someone new. Our presentation also provided perspective on our pantry model that some in their beginning stages may take direction from. My supervisor attended this conference in 2017, and she said, “It’s amazing to see how far we have come in the last year. When we were here last year, we were the ones asking the questions and now we are the ones answering the questions.”
We also had the opportunity to learn about the campus pantry at IUPUI, the host college for the conference. This pantry is in the stage that the BoB Pantry is currently transitioning into, so being able to network with the pantry coordinators at this site and familiarize myself with their operations was exceptionally beneficial to beginning planning the BoB Pantry’s phase 2 operations.
This was a wonderful experience to share with the students and for myself as a young professional. I am happy that the students were able to immerse themselves for a weekend into these important issues motivating them to keep working diligently to improve food security and food access. This conference exposed me to several national initiatives to combat hunger on college campuses and boosted my enthusiasm for and dedication to alleviating food insecurity. I hope that next year’s VISTA for this project will have the opportunity for this experience as well.