The Bear Necessities Pantry



THis photo was taken from Google Images and publishes by the Shawnee State University Bear Necessities Food Pantry.

Nathan Ewing, Staff Reporter

About the Pantry

The Bear Necessities Pantry is located in the Morris University Centre Room 221 at Shawnee State University and is to help students with food insecurity. It opened in the fall of 2016 and started in a much smaller space than it is now. At the start, there were just a couple of bookcases full of some canned goods, hotel toiletries and some donated folders that were given from the English department. 

Tiffany Hartman, who is the director of student life said “The Bear Necessities Pantry is like any other service on campus; it is here to support students. Food insecurity is a real issue on college campuses, but sometimes students are uncomfortable asking for help. I would tell any student needing help with a math class to access the Math Lab or a student needing tutoring to contact the Student Success Center. The services on campus are here to help students succeed, so use them! We do our best to support the University Mission Statement, which is ‘We prepare today’s students to succeed in tomorrow’s world.’ The pantry is a service that any registered student can use. If food insecurity is a barrier to a student’s success, then we can eliminate that roadblock for them.”

Times and Accessibility 

Any student that is registered at Shawnee can visit the Bear Necessities Pantry between 12 pm to 6 pm Monday through Friday. This allows the students to work around their schedules and always have a chance to get what they need throughout the week. A lot of the time, people are just needing a few items so it’s much easier to go to the pantry and grab them, then having to go to the supermarket. Students can visit once per week, and they are told not to bring visitors along with them because of COVID-19 Safety reasons. There is a doorbell at the entrance which if you ring, a student worker will then come and allow you to enter when the pantry is ready to be used. You need to make sure that you have your Bear Card/Student ID else you will not be allowed to enter. 

Items offered at the pantry

There are many different items which you can get from the pantry, this can include: different types of food which could be pasta, rice, meat, noodles, vegetables, protein bars and lots more. In terms of other items, you can get toilet paper, shampoo, dish soap, hand sanitizers, pens and paper, razors and much more. This is great because it means you will never be left hungry regardless of the amount of money you have. Because of the great food that is in the pantry you can make many different meals and always have different options which are very beneficial. 

To make it fair for everyone who uses the pantry, there is a limit on what you can take. For example, canned vegetables might have a limit of three per week, this allows everyone to get what they need and not just be able to stock up on too much of one item. Most of the food received this year has been through various donations, other pantries also send items when they are cleaning out their pantry, to make more room. Faculty and staff also play a major role, they frequently donate to the pantry. The pantry is also funded through student fees and has received a significant amount of funds from Kroger. 

Why the Pantry is important

The Pantry is extremely important for many different reasons. Many students do not have enough funds to always be getting food and essential items. Paying for school can be a very tough time and can lead to people not eating enough food and becoming very hungry. A lot of people feel embarrassed to not have enough money and would rather go hungry than admit this to friends or family. The pantry does not cost anything, and you can get lots of items which helps you save money while still getting the nutrition you need.

The staff do wish that there wasn’t a need for a pantry, but at the same time, they are very glad to have it to help the students. Many schools do not offer this service so its great to be able to have it here at Shawnee State University. Its not a great feeling knowing that students experience food insecurity, but on the other hand, it’s great that Shawnee can help people in need. 

Impact of COVID-19

COVID-19 has had an enormous impact on so much around the world, but the pantry has adapted as much as possible and has still found ways to help students during these difficult times. Speaking to Tiffany Hartman, she said “We haven’t been as busy as we were last year. Since 2016, the pantry numbers have surpassed the number of visitors from the year before. Last spring, after the campus went to remote learning, surprisingly, the number of visitors never slowed. This past fall, our numbers have dropped, which we attribute to fewer students taking classes physically on campus. Because of COVID-19, we have had to adjust, such as limiting the number of visits per week to one and allowing one student in the space at a time, but we are still helping students. Our numbers are steady, which tells me we are reaching more students.”