On a national scale, more than 36 percent of all college students experience food insecurity.
According to a study conducted at University of Detroit Mercy in fall 2017 by the Campus Kitchen and Student Social Workers Association, 46.5 percent of respondents reported food insecurity during their experience at the University.
Detroit Mercy student Dohna Dudley knows first-hand what impact food insecurity can have on people working toward their college degree. Dudley is the student leader who created a student food pantry at the University’s McNichols Campus.
“As an independent student, I have personally dealt with challenges due to my lack of resources. After I recognized other students also faced similar challenges, I was determined to help alleviate their burden,” she said. “This led to the development of H20 with the help of faculty and staff members. This organization is important because it will provide students with needed resources which will allow them to focus on gaining their degree.”
Caren Bendes agreed. She is associate director of Financial Aid and was the first person at Detroit Mercy to respond to food insecurity issues by developing a small pantry outside of the Financial Aid Office. She is also a member of the Student Pantry Board.
“Food insecurity is one of those quiet issues that affect the ability of students to be successful in their pursuit of an education,” she said.
Detroit Mercy’s Happy, Health, Organizing-Change (H2O) organization recently started the pantry to help decrease food insecurity among students and the University Advancement Department has established a crowdfunding initiative to raise important funds in support of the food pantry.
H2O is part of the University’s Institute for Leadership & Service and works to increase the standard living of all Detroit Mercy students. As part of the Institute’s work, H2O has identified food insecurity among students as one of the barriers that prevent students from successfully pursuing their degree.
Although there are multiple food pantries available in the community, a pantry on the McNichols campus will eliminate barriers such as a lack of transportation and hours of operation that make it difficult for students to use those resources. Students may also not meet the income or residency criteria to be eligible to shop at certain pantries outside of campus.
Organizers hope the Student Food Pantry at Detroit Mercy’s McNichols campus will increase the standard of living for students, as well as decrease food insecurity by one-third. The pantry will provide food, locate external food resources and create awareness of student food insecurity.
Timothy Hipskind, S.J., director of Service Learning and the Institute for Leadership & Service at Detroit Mercy, is grateful for student leaders like Dudley, Bendes and a host of others for taking on such an important endeavor.
“For many years, Detroit Mercy has been committed to the integration of service in our approach to academic education and learning. I am grateful that student leaders like Dohna Dudley and staff members like Caren Bendes, Angela Davis and Cindy Spires have again stepped up to put Detroit Mercy at the forefront in helping to address food insecurity among students during their educational experiences,” he said.
The Pantry will be in Reno Hall; information on hours of operation will be available in the near future.
From now through Dec. 31, individuals are welcome to support the Detroit Mercy Student Pantry through a new crowdfunding initiative. The Pantry seeks monetary donations to support startup costs and to keep the shelves stocked. Credit card donations can be made online at impact.udmercy.edu/pantry. Checks can be mailed to University of Detroit Mercy Office of Advancement, 4001 W. McNichols, Detroit, MI 48221-3038; write Student Pantry in the memo line. The Student Food Pantry is also accepting canned and non-perishable food items.