Argo pride is giving to Argo Pantry

Argo Pantry - (horizontal shot) Photo taken by G Battist

Argo Pantry.
Photo by Geri Battist.

Geri Battist

News Editor

As we approach Homecoming week, Oct. 19 through 24, filled with fun, food and festivities, let’s not forget one of the focuses of the Argo State of Mind – showing your Argo pride by giving to the Argo Pantry.

“Argo Pantry has provided a way for Homecoming to give back to the UWF student body,” said Jasu Uppal, UWF Homecoming executive director and a senior majoring in public relations and business management. “It makes perfect sense for Homecoming to partner with Argo Pantry, because both work to better the UWF community. Giving back and supporting your fellow Argonauts is the greatest way to show Argo spirit.”

According to the competition guidelines, UWF campus groups and organizations participating in the Blue and Green Challenge or the Spirit Week Competition will be collecting specific donations to “beef up” the Argo Pantry. This activity allows students, faculty and staff to focus on the aspect of giving back to the community.

The Argo Pantry first opened Fall 2013, spearheaded by Lusharon Wiley, senior associate dean of students and director of case management services. The idea of a pantry was birthed out of a shared conversation between Wiley and colleague Keya Wiggins, UWF psychologist with Counseling and Psychological Services. They had noticed how student visitors to their offices quickly devoured a simple granola snack because they didn’t have enough to eat. The need for a food pantry on campus became obvious. Taking action, both met with the director of Manna Food Bank and a few others on campus to brainstorm, and it grew from there.

“Today it has blossomed and is doing well,” Wiley said. “We were the sixth state institution in Florida to start a pantry.”

Food insecurity among enrolled college students is increasing at a rapid rate because of a change in college student demographics.

“There are more low-income, first generation and non-traditional students attending college,” said Wiley.

With the rise in tuition costs, even with a full-time job, some students face food insecurity.

Nate Smith-Tyge, director of the Michigan State University Student Food Bank, which opened in 1993, says they were the first on-campus food pantry in the country. MSUSFB reports that the opening of food pantries on college campuses has increased rapidly across the nation, up from four in 2008 to 121 in 2014.

The College and University Food Bank Alliance states that there are now 199 similar food pantries throughout the country.

Auburn University opened a food pantry in September 2012, to address the food insecurity among its students.

Two years later, Argo Pantry has seen an ever-climbing trend in student visits to the campus food bank. Fall visit trends show an increase from 14 visits in fall 2013, when it first opened, to 56 visits in fall 2014. Spring trends reflect the need even more, increasing from 15 visits in 2013 to 168 visits in spring 2015. Each semester has shown an increase.

“Students are using the pantry more and more,” said Wiley. “UWF has the most low-income, first-generation students of any state university in Florida.”

The upward trend in visits is both good and bad. It is bad because it means we have students dealing with food insecurity; but it is good because it means we are doing a better job of making students aware of the free food pantry service available on campus.

With the upward trend also comes the need to replenish the pantry. This is where Argo Pride comes into play.

You may have noticed signs posted outside some campus buildings saying, “Thanks for your support!” These signs are in recognition to six campus departments that have earned the designation of Campus and Community Partners. Wiley said it is committed giving that earns a group that designation.

Other faculty members and groups have shown their Argo Pride by giving Publix gift cards to put towards pantry item purchases. Some departments have internal competitions with food drives on a monthly basis.

Whether you are in need or want to contribute, check out the Argo Pantry complete list of pantry items.

For students experiencing food insecurity, stop in at the Argo Pantry, located in Building 21, between 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Students are allowed one weekly visit. It only takes a few minutes to fill out an application, and you will be walking out the door with a discreet bag of pantry items.

“The process is such that it keeps the students’ integrity intact,” Wiley said.

It is certain that students at UWF may have “full plates” with studies and assignments. Show your Argo pride – give to the Argo Pantry – to make certain UWF students also have full plates of food.

“The greatest thing about the Argo Pantry is that we can make a difference,” Wiley said. “We can do this for you (students).”

If you need assistance or know of a student in need, contact the Dean of Students office at (850) 474-2384 or email deanofstudents@uwf.edu or casemanagement@uwf.edu.