University officials discuss details of coming food pantry

By Tyler Crotzer, @TylerCrotzer_DE

After studying for hours for an upcoming mid-term, the last thing any student wants to see is an empty fridge. 

For all those going hungry, SIU interim Chancellor Brad Colwell and vice chancellor of student affairs, Lori Stettler, said a food pantry will open the beginning of the 2016 fall semester in the basement of the Student Center.

Student affairs staff discussed opening a food pantry earlier this year, at the same time Colwell read articles about other schools opening pantries, such as the University of Illinois and the University of Missouri. Stettler and Colwell said they knew they wanted to pursue the idea and assumed there was a need.


SIU is still working on formally assessing the need among students by trying to gather general data from FAFSA forms like if students reported food insecurity or homelessness.

“We have a lot of first-year students from various economic statuses. It has nothing to do with [the state] budget or anything like that. We just wanted to serve our students,” Colwell said.

The plan is to have the pantry open to anyone with a valid student ID at least a couple times a week, Stettler said. That way students can get about three days worth of food until the next time the pantry is open. The hours of operation may be dependent on the supply of food available when the pantry first opens. 

Students going hungry is not an issue unique to SIU.

There are 298 institutions in the United States with opened student food pantries, according to the College and University Food Bank Alliance. 

One in three college freshmen experiences food insecurity — or lack of consistent access to adequate foods — according to research by the American Public Health Association in November.

The study, which polled students at an unnamed university in the southwest, also showed food-insecure students were less likely to eat breakfast and home-cooked meals, and more likely to eat fast food and experience anxiety and depression.


One of Stettler’s concerns was not knowing if the campus had the resources to open the pantry.

The project is still developing and Stettler is unsure of the overall cost of creating the pantry. She said she is exploring all options, such as grants, discounted ticket prices for SIU sporting events in return for donations, and partnerships with food venders and local farmers.

“We’re going to be very sustainable, reusing equipment and furniture we already have on campus,” Stettler said. 

The food supply will account for the biggest cost to the university. Aside from food donations, Colwell expects private monetary donations from the community.

SIU does not plan to hire any new staff to run the pantry, but will use current faculty members. Volunteers are welcome to help, and Stettler said she hopes the pantry will become a student-run initiative after faculty gets it started.

Resource information will also be available for students who do not know if they are eligible for governmental services including food stamps and WIC. As long as the pantry continues to grow, the university wants to expand its inventory to include personal hygiene items as well, Stettler said.

“When we started talking to students, what we’re hearing from them is they make a choice sometimes, some months, between buying food and paying rent,” she said. “What we want to do is remove obstacles, so that students can be academically successful and not have to worry about where their next meal is going come from.”

To make a donation, Stettler can be reached at 618-453-3401.

Tyler Crotzer can be reached at [email protected] or 618-536-3325.