Kent State Stark food pantry assists students in need

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The Student Leadership and Activities Board (SLAB) at Kent State Stark started a food pantry to help students, faculty and staff.

Justin Niedenthal

Kent State Stark campus’ new student-run food pantry helps both traditional and nontraditional students achieve success by providing supplementary goods free of charge.

The food pantry at the regional campus began as a student initiative organized by the Student Leadership and Activities Board (SLAB) and is currently serving students, faculty and staff.

“Through our research we found that 15.9 percent of people in Stark County are food insecure. We also found that personal hygiene products are not covered by food stamps and not everyone in Stark County has access to things like soap or feminine hygiene products” said April Arbogast , a junior communication studies major and SLAB member.

Arbogast brought the idea to SLAB in 2015. By November, the food pantry was up and running. To date, the pantry has serviced 60 individuals, helping to meet a wide range of needs. Students in need of the pantry’s services are typically traditional students ranging from ages 18-23. However, there are exceptions and in some cases the students receiving aid are also parents with dependents at home.

“We had one student who recently moved into an apartment and only ate ramen noodles for the first week,” Aborgast said. “We were like, ‘please come eat something besides ramen.’ “

Students are allowed 12 food items and three personal items a week from the pantry.

“It is great to be able to provide, on campus, extra food and hygiene items, instead of having to send students that are in need off-campus,” said Madison Hoenes, a junior nursing major. “Some of these students do not have access to consistent transportation and it means a lot to them to have resources right down the hall.”

Hoenes, a member of SLAB, is one of the students on the board responsible for the administrative and day-to-day aspects of the food pantry.

“The hat is tipped to the SLAB members and their advisor,” said Interfaith Campus Director and Minister Michael Gleason. “They saw a need in their community and decided to do something.”

Gleason works with students in need by providing them anything from clothing vouchers to bus passes, but what he found through his work was that many students simply need food.

“A lot of students can’t believe we can give them so much, and that makes them skeptical to take the full amount of items they are allowed,” said Neal Dingies, a senior music technology major and SLAB member. 

Students can choose to come back each week or can visit as needed. SLAB tracks attendance by using an anonymous survey that asks a simple question of whether or not it is their first time at the food pantry.

“The pantry is not to replace food stamps or government assistance, but if you need a few things to supplement yourself for the week, then we can definitely help,” Hoenes said.

Baby wipes, diapers and toilet paper are the hardest items to keep in stock .

The food pantry accepts non perishables food items and new hygiene items as well as monetary donations. If interested in helping, donate at the Kent Stark campus’ Campus Center.

 Justin Niedenthal is a social services reporter. Contact him at [email protected]