A new resource is available to Troy Campus students that addresses a growing need among college students nationwide.
The Trojan Pantry, located in Trojan Village 200, is an initiative to address food insecurity among students that is being led by the Office of Civic Engagement, along with a host of university partners. The pantry started last academic year in November and had more than 150 student visits through the end of the Spring semester. This Fall, the pantry has had more than 200 visits in just two months of operations.
Nationally about 30 percent of college students are food insecure at school, and those numbers hold true at TROY.
“We’re not immune from these financial challenges that affect students around the country,” stated Lauren Cochran, Coordinator of Civic Engagement.
A part of the John W. Schmidt Center for Student Success, the Office of Civic Engagement was already involved in addressing food insecurity, with its highly successful Backpacks for Kids program that distributes backpacks with non-perishable food to youth-serving organizations.
“Nearly 25 percent of individuals in Pike County are food insecure, and we were addressing some of that need as we realized our students were experiencing some of the same challenges. As our advisors met with students to plan academic schedules, they occasionally heard that students were skipping meals or eating less to stretch one meal into two. We initially would utilize our food donations to make sure students didn’t leave the building without a bag of food, and then started to survey the student body to determine the prevalence on campus. We did that for multiple years while we built the capacity to start the Trojan Pantry,” stated Cochran.
Then, to compound problems, COVID struck, stranding students without jobs and international students without a way to go home. International Programs answered the need by creating a “pocket pantry” where students could access a few basic food and personal items.
Trojan Pantry opened in November 2022 as a collaboration led by Civic Engagement, along with a multitude of faculty, staff, and departmental partners. In addition to the pantry, a Resource Hub for Basic Needs directs students where to turn when they are in need.
“We’ve worked with community partners to be able to meet needs we couldn’t (on campus), and the internal webpage is a one-stop place to go to find out what assistance is available,” Cochran said.
Students can access Trojan Pantry by making an online appointment. Fall Semester hours are Mondays from 3:30 p.m. until 5 p.m., and on Fridays from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. The Pantry is staffed by student workers and volunteers.
Data of Trojan Pantry users reveal that more than half of the student visitors to the Trojan Pantry are Pell Grant recipients or are First Generation students. An average of 25 visits take place each week and the average GPA of the students utilizing the service is 3.1. Most are freshmen or graduate students.
“It’s difficult to learn if you’re hungry. The Trojan Pantry is an effort by our campus to ensure access to basic needs is not a barrier to students’ academic success or the completion of their degree. TROY provides a host of resources (academic, physical, emotional and social) that contribute to the holistic wellbeing of our students. We want students to utilize the pantry as they would any other resource on campus.”
Trojan Pantry started through a combination of donated food items and money from student organization drives, academic departments, and faculty and staff. Donations continued so that the entire 23-24 academic year has been covered. This fall, Trojan Pantry is rolling out a new partnership with the Heart of Alabama Food Bank (formerly the Montgomery Area Food Bank), which is also launching a college hunger program with numerous other two and four-year institutions in the state.
For $10,000 per year, 100 percent of the food cost is covered for the Trojan Pantry, and provides monthly shipments from the Heart of Alabama Food Bank. At current rates of usage, 43,000 pounds of food are required to operate the Trojan Pantry for the year.
“We started the Trojan Pantry initially relying on only donated items from the university community; however, our partnership with the Heart of Alabama Food Bank ensures a sustainable food source for the pantry, as well as exponentially increases our buying power over what can be purchased by individuals at retail value. We ask that those who want to donate, consider monetary donations,” Cochran said.
“Our goal for next year is $10,000 to support the food pantry. Recurring gifts and faculty/staff payroll deduction helps us sustain our efforts,” Cochran said, noting that just 30 people donating $30 per month supports the Pantry for an entire year.