Gannon University’s First Generation United Club is providing a food pantry on campus for students who struggle with food availability throughout the academic year.
The First Generation United Club works with first generation students throughout campus. The club provides academic and community resources to students who are the first in their families to pursue a bachelor’s degree.
Shayla Jones, a junior social work major and president of the First Generation United Club, said that the idea for the food pantry came about when she overheard students speaking about how they were hungry during the school day. She said she knew that she struggled with getting access to food for financial reasons, so she knew other students struggled with the issue as well.
Jones was also inspired by advisers within the Student Success Center who would keep food in their offices in case a student would need it.
Jones said that she worked with Laura Rhodes, the adviser of the First Generation United Club, to create the food pantry after Jones donated food and personal care items to Rhodes and they were gone within 24 hours. The items went to students who were in desperate need of the products.According to Jones, last year, the food pantry provided services to approximately 30 students. At the time, the pantry was limited to TRIO, SSS and Gannon Archbishop Scholar students. This year, the pantry is open to students, faculty and staff.
Jones said that the hours of availability have a huge effect on how many students use the services.
She said that when the pantry had open availability last year, students refrained from seeking support.
This year, students who need support can contact firstname.lastname@example.org in order to request food and other necessities.
Students may set up appointments with a volunteer to use the shopper style pantry. They also have the opportunity to choose their own items.
Along with appointments, the pantry also offers a day with open hours monthly.
Jones said that some students are hesitant to use the pantry because of personal reasons, but volunteers try to assist the students in any ways they can.
“Some state they are embarrassed or ashamed,” she said.
“However, after volunteers talk to them and we share our own stories, students often leave with gratitude and encouraged that it is OK to reach out for help.”
Jones said that she appreciates all of the help that students give to the community.
“Gannon students provide a great deal of community service to the Erie community, and I love that,” she said.
“However, I believe you must take care of home first before you can help others.”
Jones said she believes the First Generation United Club ensures that students have what they need to succeed academically. With their basic needs met, Jones said students can provide more for the Erie community.
Jones said that the first donation to the pantry came from Danny Jones, CEO of the Greater Erie Community Action Committee (GECAC). He donated $100 to the pantry last fall.
The pantry also received assistance from the Gannon University Support Staff Association (GUSSA) in the form of monetary and food donations.
According to Jones, as of now, the pantry does not have any long- term support systems in place in regards to donations. Most of the donations come from Gannon’s health services department, individual students and the month-long summer food drive hosted by the residents of the Boston Store Apartments.
Students who wish to donate to the food pantry may email email@example.com.