Founded by students for students: Wesley Foundation food pantry helps SIU’s food-insecure

By Amelia Blakely

When the SIU Wesley Foundation food pantry opened in 2012, founder and SIU alumna Loran Morris said she didn’t realize how big the food-insecure community was on campus.

“I was thinking, ‘well, maybe I’ll help a handful of people,’” Morris said. “And then, just out of nowhere, it continued to grow.”

The pantry now sees about 100 students a year. Morris said as the food pantry’s patronage grew, so did the amount of donations from churches and other local organizations.

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“I think that all just brought our campus together,” said Morris. “It’s something I didn’t intend to happen.”

Morris, who now works as a clinical dietician at the Marion VA Medical Center, founded the pantry when she was a senior studying food and nutrition. She said she saw a need on campus that wasn’t being met, so she applied for a $1,500 leadership grant from the United Methodist Church to get the pantry up-and-running.

“I would see people I knew who just didn’t have enough money to make it to the end of the month,” said Morris. “And unfortunately, their nutrition suffers because of that.”   

Wesley Foundation Director Sherry Smedshammer said the pantry has become increasingly important over the years with the rising cost of college.

“Their rent is expensive — college is just expensive,” said Smedshammer. “And it’s not that the parents do not want to help — it’s just financially, they can’t.”

The pantry is located on South Illinois Avenue and open Tuesdays from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m and Wednesdays from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

SIU and John A. Logan students can use the pantry once every 30 days to get food and personal care and cleaning items. Students in need of volunteer hours can also sign up to help.

Students get two bags they are allowed to fill following certain guidelines for how much they can take of each item. Smedshammer said this is due to the fact that the pantry has to rely on donations, so its stock can vary significantly.

However, Smedshammer said the food pantry gives full autonomy to students when choosing their items.

The food pantry’s busiest times are the beginning and end of each semester. Smedshammer partly attributed this to scholarship loans not being ready to use at the very beginning of the year.

Smedshammer said her role as the director of the Wesley Foundation is to empower students through their own faith and passion, because the food pantry was founded by a student for students.

“We’ve kept true to that vision,” said Smedshammer.

Staff writer Amelia Blakely can be reached at [email protected]

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