To answer food insecurity issues among students, the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith cut the ribbon on the new Lion Pride Pantry, a wooden box filled with nonperishable food items for those who need a little help.
The pantry, which stands in the greenway between the Recreation and Wellness Center and the Old Gym along Kinkead Avenue, opened Aug. 23 as representatives from the Student Government Association, university administration and student support staff cut a ribbon.
Jordan Dart, president of the Student Government Association, explained the inception of the idea.
“As members of SGA, we’re constantly trying to find ways to make our students’ experience better, to make campus better, and to have creative ideas,” she said. “I’m thankful to the SGA who came before me who worked really hard on this idea and approved the funds to make this food pantry box possible.
“A granola bar or a box of ramen noodles can really make a difference to a student who might be struggling or have food insecurity,” Dart added.
Donations include peanut butter, canned soups, granola bars, crackers, pasta, canned beans, and other foods that don’t require refrigeration.
“We take pride in all students, and we want every single student to feel valued, respected, welcomed and cared for,” explained Dr. Terisa Riley, UAFS chancellor, who cited national statistics that estimate 20 percent of college students will face food insecurity in a given year.
“For our students with food insecurities, it extends far beyond hunger,” she said. “Students whose stomachs are rumbling can’t pay attention. Students who don’t know where they will get their next meal or whose food is not nutritionally sound or fulfilling are unable to concentrate due to the stress they’re under.”
“Truth be known, faculty and staff from across campus for years have been providing students with granola bars, apples, and other little snacks to help them get through the day,” said Dr. Dave Stevens, Dean of students, looking around the room full of caring supporters. “The Lion Pride Pantry is just an extension of that generosity.”
The UAFS Student Government Association allocated the funds for the initial installation of the pantry. UAFS associate professor and woodworker Dr. Erik Carlson built the box. UAFS Advising Coordinator Kim Tomlinson and the staff of the RAWC will help maintain the pantry, collect donations, and keep the pantry stocked.