NEW ALBANY, Ind. – The Chancellor’s picnic for faculty and staff marked the beginning of more than just the fall semester, it marked the beginning of the Emergency Food Pantry on campus. This new project is an important extension of the support services IU Southeast offers students.
The pantry is housed in IU Southeast’s Office of Personal Counseling Services, and organized by Counselor and Care Manager Karen Richie. Although she is responsible for the implementation of the food pantry, Richie said her position was created after a faculty member identified a need to address a challenge students’ face outside of the classroom.
“I’m not the only person involved in this process. In fact, the process started before I was hired and it’s the reason my position was created. The onset of the conversation occurred when a faculty member started working closely with a student who was struggling with more difficult areas than just academics. She had to face a lot of changes in her life and eventually became homeless. [The faculty member] worked with her and started conversation to get a Social Worker on campus who could assist in these areas,” Richie said.
After coming on board, Richie started laying the groundwork for the pantry. She checked local pantries and researched the process and practices required to start and maintain a food pantry. After multiple conversations and the first call for donations from faculty and staff at the Chancellor’s picnic, Richie said the pantry now has food.
“It’s exciting to see how generous our faculty and staff are. I’ve been working to sort the items we received. I’m checking expiration dates and placing them in boxes on the shelves. Once a box is full, we will mark it so the student will have several days’ worth of food,” she explained.
Richie said her next step is to let students know these services are now available to them, but remind them that these are for students in need who don’t have immediate resources. She said in order to avoid being seen as a campus grocery store, there will be limits set on access.
“We will provide them with resources once they access the food pantry on campus, so if they are in a chronic situation, they can seek additional community services. We also understand that sometimes situations ‘sneak up’ on us and they are temporary and transitional. This is another reason we started this initiative,” Richie stated.
While addressing faculty and staff at the picnic, Chancellor Ray Wallace shared his commitment to Richie’s work.
“We know we have students who may not know where they will be sleeping tonight and are hungry. This is why we have a started a new project,” he said. “We will be able to acknowledge our students’ individual struggles in another way, now.”
The Emergency Food Pantry is located in the Personal Counseling Services Suite in UC South Room 243.