Hendricks food pantry serves hungry students

An increasing number of students facing food insecurity receive support from a collection of goods right on campus.

Kenny knows the maximum amount of snack wraps he can buy at the Schine Dining Center without going over his budget. If he buys two wraps, he will fill his stomach and will only have to pay three dollars. Kenny, who asked that his full name not be used for privacy reasons, adds that because he “knows the wrap lady,” she will pack his wrap full with food. 

"Hunger at the college level goes beyond the traditional ramen noodle story. It is not 100 percent visible, but it does affect folks from all walks of life."
- Nate Smith-Tyke

Kenny is just one of a growing number of college students across the country who are facing the prevalent issue of food insecurity and hunger on their campuses. He is also one of about 30 Syracuse University students who have sought aid from the Hendricks Chapel food pantry, according to Ginny Yerdon, the event coordinator and administrative specialist in Hendricks.

The information technology and management senior, who was recently laid off from his job, visited the food pantry for the first time two days ago. He has struggled financially since he moved off campus his sophomore year at SU.

Yerdon developed the food pantry last semester and assisted Kenny when he sought its help. Since last semester, Yerdon has witnessed an increasing number of students seeking the services and supplies of the food pantry.

Students who come to the pantry are primarily juniors, seniors and graduate students who live off campus, according to Yerdon. Freshmen and sophomores are less likely to come to the pantry because most have a meal plan and campus housing. She noted that students who live off campus are more responsible for paying their rent and utilities in addition to tuition. Because of this, she said, it is common for students to use their food and grocery money on other expenses.

“I afford rent on my own,” Kenny said. “So a lot of the time, of the expenses I incur, food is the first to go.”

Since its inception in the fall semester, the donation-based pantry services three to four students a week in need of the pantry’s aid, according to Yerdon. Over the past semester, Yerdon has met many Syracuse University students facing food insecurity, such as a student who was living off of powdered milk and applesauce.

“One day, I had a student come in who hadn’t eaten all day,” she said.

Yerdon guides these students to Room 013 in Hendricks, a converted chaplain’s office. It is now home to three walls of shelves filled with non-perishable items. Campbell’s soup, pasta and canned vegetables sit cozily aside one another. A single window facing the Physics Building allows light to coat the floor.

The pantry differs from other local food banks in the community, according to Yerdon, because the Hendricks food pantry does not have restrictions or eligibility requirements for students.

Despite this, Hendricks Chapel Dean Tiffany Steinwert said it is often difficult to convince students to take food from the pantry.

“Most often they will say, ‘Oh, I’ll come back later,’” Steinwert said. “Sometimes they do, and sometimes they don’t.”

Steinwert blames embarrassment and the image of poverty for this.

“I think sometimes people have this image that there’s this large group of people who take advantage of free things,” she said. “And if you have a food pantry, it won’t be sustainable because students are going to cheat: students who don’t need it are going to take food, and students who do are going to take too much. I don't find that to be true at all.”

Steinwert says she encourages students to return to the pantry every week if they are in need of assistance; however, very few do.

“We really do mean it as a subsidy for food for students, and that’s why we have it,” she said. “That’s why this image of this freeloading person is just a myth. It’s a myth that gets spun by individuals who are prejudiced against the poor.”

The Hendricks’ food pantry is part of a larger and still expanding chain of food banks and pantries across the country supporting college students facing food insecurities and hunger. Michigan State University founded the first food pantry on a college campus in 1993. Now, it assists 4,000 students every year, according to Director Nate Smith-Tyke.  

Smith-Tyke is also co-founder of the College and University Food Bank Alliance. He said more campuses are beginning to realize the prevalence of food insecurity and hunger.

The lack of data on college campuses makes hunger difficult to quantify, Smith-Tyke said. However, CUFBA, which was founded in March of 2013 to support emerging food pantries on college campuses, is attempting to determine the data surrounding hunger on campuses.

“Hunger at the college level goes beyond the traditional ramen noodle story,” Smith-Tyke said. “It is not 100 percent visible, but it does affect folks from all walks of life. It happens at community colleges and large research universities. It is crucial we start to recognize that these pantries are an essential service, especially universities with students living off campus.”

MSU sophomore Rachel Brown moved off campus at the start of the school year and has faced instances of food insecurity. Brown said she had to adjust to not having a meal plan and the constant stream of food at the dining hall.

“I’ve never starved,” Brown said. “As a dietetics major, I wanted to eat healthier, but the food is more expensive. So I’ve been eating healthier, but eating less.”

Brown has never used the services of the MSU food bank, but is familiar with the line of students within the bank.

Smith-Tyke estimates there are 100 food banks on campuses across the country. He says he expects that number to grow as economic challenges continue.

Yerdon and Steinwert hope the Hendricks Chapel food pantry will expand by reaching out to SU faculty. The pantry currently works with the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarship Programs, and the Division of Enrollment Management.

They also want to work in partnership with the David B. Falk College of Sport and Human Dynamics to become better versed in nutrition and partner with the social service department to learn more about food stamps for eligible students.

Kenny looks forward to the spring, when he will graduate. He has already been offered a full-time job, beginning in August, as an information technology consultant.

“I believe that once that job starts, the tough times will end,” he said. “Right now, the negative is only temporary.”

Food Pantry donations

Hi Jacki: Below is the text from a flyer with information on what and where to give for those interested. let me know if you need more information.
Thank you for your support,
-Ginny x5044

Hendricks Chapel now houses a small food pantry for students in immediate need of food. Please help us by contributing non-perishable goods. Here is a suggested list of foods:
• cans of vegetables/fruits/beans
• canned tuna/chicken
• peanut butter/jam
• rice/pasta
• cereal/oatmeal
• coffee, tea, hot chocolate, powdered milk
• condiments (ketchup, mustard, salad dressing, olive oil, etc.)
Donations can be dropped off in the Dean’s office, Room 003, on lower level of Hendricks Chapel. We are open from 8:30-10 pm Mon-Fri and 9:30-10 pm Sat and Sun. Contact Ginny Yerdon at gyerdon@syr.edu or 443-5044 with questions.
Thank you for your support.

To donate to the food pantry,

To donate to the food pantry, contact Ginny Yerdon at 443-5044.


How do we go about making donations to this pantry for the students?

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