Food pantry, clothing program helping Owens studentsWritten by Sarah Ottney | Editor in Chief | firstname.lastname@example.org
After becoming aware of a need among its students, staff at Owens Community College recently opened food pantries on its Toledo and Findlay campuses and a clothing initiative at its Toledo campus.
The pantries, which offer free, nonperishable food to Owens students with a valid student ID, have been well-utilized since opening in mid-February, said Krista Kiessling, director of service learning at Owens.
“It’s been wildly successful so far,” Kiessling said. “We had 129 students in February and we’ve already far surpassed that for March with 230. We’ve gone through several hundred pounds of food a month.”
The Career Closet, which opened in mid-March, offers professional men’s and women’s clothing for students who need clothes for a job, job fair or interview, Kiessling said. About 30 students have utilized the service so far.
Available attire includes suits, jackets and blazers, professional shirts, blouses, sweaters, slacks, skirts, dresses, ties, belts, briefcases, portfolios, purses and shoes.
To use the services, people must show a valid student ID. Students can come in once a semester for clothing and once a week for food, Kiessling said.
Most of the food items were donated by the Toledo Seagate Food Bank while the bulk of the clothing was donated by faculty and staff members, with donations also coming from students and community members, Kiessling said.
The pantry at Owens is the first of its kind in Northwest Ohio. Wright State University in Dayton and Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland also have pantries. Michigan State University in East Lansing was one of the first in the nation to have a pantry on campus.
“We weren’t trying to be the first. We were trying to jump on the bandwagon of these others who are doing it and doing it well,” Kiessling said. “I’m just really excited about the project. I think it’s a wonderful project for any campus. I know UT is thinking about setting one up and I have been in conversations with BGSU about setting one up. It changes the culture of the entire college, in a good way.”
The idea for the pantry came last year after Owens started a community garden project.
“We had some students approach us about coming in after hours to pick food because they needed it,” Kiessling said. “We said, ‘Absolutely,’ but that was kind of the light bulb moment. As the growing season ended, we realized we needed an ongoing service.”
People don’t think of college students as going hungry, but many struggle to make ends meet, Kiessling said.
“Even at four-year schools where students are living on campus there are still students who are hungry,” Kiessling said. “It’s just one of those topics that isn’t talked about much. People don’t equate college students with poverty. Being able to go to college is a privilege, but many students are sacrificing more than we know to be able to get that education.”
The clothing project was spearheaded by a group of faculty members who approached Kiessling wanting to help.
“They came to me wanting to help the pantry, and I told them about a pipe dream I had been wanting to do [with the Career Closet] and they launched it, which I’m so grateful for,” Kiessling said.
In addition to providing a direct service to students in need, the projects offer service learning opportunities for other students, Kiessling said.
“We have marketing students creating a marketing plan, accounting students setting up a bookkeeping system, nursing students teaching dietary and nutrition awareness, students using it as a source of research,” Kiessling said. “Students really are able to apply any disciplinary framework through the pantry.”
Student Morgan Eisch, a psychology major, works the intake desk at the Toledo area campus.
“There’s been such a need,” Eisch said. “A lot of students have been utilizing it.”
The pantry is located in Heritage Hall Room 109 on the Toledo-area campus in Perrysburg and at the Maintenance/Department of Public Safety Building Room 106 on the Findlay campus. The Career Closet is located within the pantry on the Toledo-area campus.
In Toledo, the pantry and Career Closet are open from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesdays and 6-8 p.m. Wednesdays. In Findlay, the pantry is open from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursdays.
For more information, call 1-800-GO-OWENS, ext. 2275 or (567) 661-2275.
Tags: Owens Community College