Volunteers for Auburn University at Montgomery (AUM) Honors Program Food Pantry want to make student food insecurity a thing of the past on campus.
Through new outreach initiatives, they’re hoping to attract new donors, increase participation, and raise awareness about the AUM Honors Program Food Pantry. The program — run by Honors students Allison Stewart, Rachel Wales, Sarah Staton, Sarah Phillips and Ellen Fowler — is in its seventh year serving food insecure students on AUM’s campus.
“We are really trying to get the word out to students, faculty and staff that AUM has a food pantry,” said Stewart, who oversees the food pantry’s volunteers, inventory and outreach efforts. “Two years ago when I first started volunteering with the pantry, it did not have much food in it and we ran the pantry off of money that we had in the Honors Program account. So, we were buying food items as we needed.”
“We just didn’t advertise because of the fear that the pantry would not serve those who needed it most,” Stewart said. “We really want to make sure that the people who actually need assistance are the ones coming to use the pantry.”
In fall 2019, advertising the food pantry program became a priority after volunteers were notified that funding for the food pantry could no longer come from Honors Program fundraising, Stewart said.
“Funding for the pantry had to be all donor based so last fall the food pantry became a 100 percent donor-based program,” she said. “This presented one of the first big challenges for the food pantry because we started off last semester with zero donors.”
Turning the food pantry into a donor-based program also meant reaching out for support, something with which Stewart and other volunteers had little experience. With help from faculty and modeling other successful community donor-based food pantry programs, Stewart and her team began outreach and on-campus advertising last fall.
“We received a great response from faculty and staff and outside donors, such as churches, that wanted to help support the pantry,” Stewart said. “I didn’t know what to expect, but the response has been great. We would love to see students also get engaged with supporting the food pantry.”
Starting this semester, the food pantry — located in Taylor Center 316E — expanded its hours to better serve students and will have donation bins placed around campus for AUM students, faculty and staff to drop off non-perishable food items. The food pantry program also plans to partner with more AUM student organizations such as SGA to host on-campus food drives.
This semester, the food pantry also has expanded its offerings to include hygiene products -- from feminine hygiene products to razors to soap, deodorant, and toothpaste – and baby food for on-campus parents based on feedback from faculty and community partners such as Trafficking Hope and Friendship Mission.
The changes will hopefully help the food pantry serve more students, said Lynn Stallings, director of the University Honors Program. The food pantry received 672 student visits and distributed more than 3,000 non-perishable and baby food items in Fall 2019.
The numbers are a testament to how much the food pantry program has grown since AUM alumna Sonni Gunnels (‘16), a former Honors student, established the food pantry program to help students overcome the challenge of hunger and earn their degrees, Stallings said.
“The AUM Honors Program Food Pantry epitomizes what is amazing about the AUM Honors Program and how the AUM community cares for our students,” Stallings said. “The Food Pantry is entirely run by Honors Program students, and almost every Honors Program student volunteers manning the Food Pantry every semester. We are so thankful to our entire AUM community for rallying to ensure our students’ basic needs are met.”
To make an online donation to the AUM Honors Program Food Pantry, visit tinyurl.com/AUMFOOD.