In the 12 months since the on-campus Food Pantry at Mississippi College opened, the number of individuals benefiting from the free initiative has increased dramatically.
About 30 people per week received much-needed food and supplies during the pantry’s first month of operation in spring 2021. After only two semesters, that number rapidly grew to about 75 individuals per week – more than double its original number.
“There have been conversations where students have said how much it helps,” said Rebecca Benson, assistant dean for Christian leadership and co-founder of the pantry. “It’s a humbling experience to recognize the need and then step in to help our neighbors.”
Benson said the growth seems to stem from a greater awareness among the student body, easy accessibility, and increasing food prices.
A valid faculty, staff, or student ID is the only requirement to receive items from the pantry. Food Pantry volunteers ask no questions of those who participate. Benson said these factors have made the pantry easily accessible to those who have benefited from the service.
She said a recent increase in the overall cost of living and the COVID-19 pandemic, which may have negatively affected faculty, staff, and students at MC, may have contributed to the rise in Food Pantry participation.
Creating the Food Pantry is a significant part of serving the student and faculty body in tangible ways.
Jonathan Ambrose, associate vice president for the Student Experience and dean of students, initially met with Benson in 2020 to discuss the potential of having a food pantry on the MC campus.
“We knew there was a need, but we didn’t know how much it was,” Benson said.
They used text-messaging software to gauge the need to prompt MC students to answer questions about their potential needs. The results revealed the need for a food pantry.
Benson met with Shari Barnes, director of community service at MC, to research how they could operate a food pantry.
“We knew that there was a need among students and food insecurity on our campus,” Benson said.
They explored how other schools provided food pantry services to get practical ideas, then brainstormed how a pantry would best function on the MC campus.
In April 2021, MC’s Food Pantry opened in the basement of the B.C. Rogers Student Center, just around the corner from the Office of Public Safety. Its location is easily accessible to MC faculty, staff, and students.
To help participants feel comfortable using the pantry, Benson said appropriate measures had been taken to ensure that people could remain anonymous.
Completely donation-based, the pantry relies on the MC Community to remain stocked. MC’s social clubs and tribes have played an important role in collecting donations, while other campus organizations, MC faculty, staff, alumni, and local businesses have also contributed.
Outside of campus, the Clinton community has also played a vital role in giving to those who may be in need. Morrison Heights Baptist Church, Pinelake Church, and the Clinton Community Christian Corporation (4Cs) are just a few of the places that offer similar services.
Another sign of the Food Pantry’s growth: on the first day of the 2022 fall semester, 256.7 pounds of supplies were distributed on that day alone. The increased demand for food brings an increased need for donations.
For more information about donating to the Food Pantry at MC, or to see a list of items needed by the pantry, visit mc.edu/students/christian/mc-food-pantry/about.