By Darlene Leal
RU has officially started a food and toiletry pantry that is available and accessible to any student in need.
Through the weekly meetings that the Students of Concern team conducts there was a consistent issue that was brought up, a financial struggle. The Students of Concern team, which is made up of the Dean of Students Office, Title IX, Counseling, Multicultural Student Support Services (MSSS), Academic Support Center, Campus Safety, and Academic Advising made it in initiative of theirs to find a solution.
Charity Seaborn, director of student rights and responsibilities, said, “Last semester, spring, is when we first started talking about it. Anne Diamond, which is one of the counselors, started a small pantry up at the Schaumburg campus. From that, rolled over a need here and how we can assess that need.”
To assess that need, the student of concerns team sent out an email to both campuses earlier in the semester. Students received a survey twice within the semester and in the emails it asked about food assessment and homelessness amongst the student body. The survey showed that among the approximately 686 students that replied, 25 percent of students needed food and housing.
“The level of severity does vary, in the more severe spectrum we are finding about 7 to 8 percent of students are more severe with the bulk of them hovering in the middle ground with 15 percent,” said outreach coordinator Leila Ellis-Nelson.
“If you’re in a classroom or you haven’t eaten in a day or two days, or you have nowhere to sleep, what is the likelihood that you’re actually paying attention to the lecture?” Ellis-Nelson said.
Ellis-Nelson said that some students might be embarrassed over their financial situation, but she wants to reassure all students that the student of concerns team is here as a supportive system.
“One in three students are in need of some type of additional support that they just aren’t able to utilize on their own,” said Ellis-Nelson. She wanted all students to know they are not alone and that there is no shame in seeking help.
Pamela Thompson-Hill, associate director of multicultural student services, was the first in getting the program started. She said that all RU students that are facing financial disadvantages are welcomed to visit. She said that RU understands that students are under a lot of pressure financially with not only tuition, but their own personal bills. They opened the pantry to help ease the burden.
Hannah Wheeler, second year graduate in music, filled out the survey, but was unaware that RU had started a pantry. Wheeler said the pantry is a great idea and one that will help students. Wheeler said, “Genius! A university built off of social justice should really be doing things for the community.”
Nov. 1 was the first day that the pantry was opened, and some students did make use of it. The pantry is currently only available through appointment. Students will be able to email HFI, or call Dean of Students, MSSS, or the Counseling Center to get in. The pantry can be found in Wabash 318. Volunteers can be anyone, as long as they are able to keep student identities private and understand those who may need to use the pantry, she said.
The student body, faculty and staff can donate food and toiletries at the drop off locations, which are located at the multicultural support services, the office of the dean of students, the counseling center, residence life and CSI. Seaborn said that students can make cash or check donations at the Dean of Students Suite, located at AUD 204. Staff and faculty may also choose to have deduction taken out monthly to help with the pantry. They said that any and all help is appreciated.
Students who are interested in helping with the pantry can apply via appointment by emailing HFI@roosevelt.edu.