Brittney Dabney, Office of Communications, Public Relations and Marketing
As part of its focus throughout “National Social Work Month,” Tuskegee University’s Department of Social Work paid special attention on Friday, March 29 to a growing epidemic on college campus and among students – food insecurity.
Throughout March, social work students and faculty solicited contributions of non-perishable food and personal hygiene items to donate to the university’s Tiger’s Den Food Pantry. The food pantry, recently relaunched in February, seeks to provide resources to students whose limited finances may result in skipping meals or going without proper nutrition.
The food drive was just one of the several ways the department incorporated the month-long “Elevate Social Work” theme into tangible ways of demonstrating the profession’s impact both locally and nationally.
“We wanted to use this opportunity as a way to illustrate the value of having a social work degree. It’s important for our students to know that they can make a difference right here in their own community on campus,” explained Dr. April Jones, head of the Department of Social Work. “We also felt like this was too a way to address some of our students’ unmet needs – we want to make their quality of life and educational achievement a success.”
Jones noted that the reopening of the campus food pantry provided a way for student members of the Social Work Alliance— along with the help of partnerships with area nonprofit organizations — to sustain the food pantry’s operations.
As part of the department’s outreach efforts, the food pantry received food and toiletry donations from the Montgomery Area Food Bank, The Wesley Foundation, St. John A.M.E. Zion Church, Federally Employed Women Chapter 162 and a host of other organizations. In all, the food pantry received more than $3,000 in both monetary and in-kind donations — all of which the department presented to the food pantry during a ceremony on March 29.
Al Bloom, communications officer with the Montgomery Area Food Bank, said the prevalence of food insecurity is high among college students and has become a threat to student success.
“Food insecurity has the potential to impact academics, wellness and behavior – all factors that have a bearing on student retention and graduation rates,” Bloom said. “We are excited about partnering with Tuskegee University, as we know this is a way to assist students who may be facing food insecurity.”
In addition to assisting with food drive efforts, social work students provided food pantry intake services as a part of courses that require service-learning components.
Located in Tompkins Hall, the food pantry is open from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. each Tuesday and Thursday, as well as by appointment. Organizers plan to provide those relying on the food pantry’s services with highly nutritious, single-serving foods that can be conveniently prepared by on-campus residents.
Recent research by Harvard Graduate School of Education professor Anthony Jack and Cheryl Sternman Rule of Bon Appetit Management Company estimates that up to half of the nation’s college students may struggle with food insecurity at certain times of the academic year — especially over vacations or spring break when traditional meal sources like dining halls are closed. The researchers found that the issue transcends geography or other institutional characteristics, like if the school is public or private, elite or non-elite, or four-year or a community college — as well as that it is linked to lower graduation rates, as Bloom reinforced.
Anyone wishing to support to the food pantry may donate non-perishable food items, toiletries and feminine hygiene products by bringing them directly to Office of the Dean of Students in 203 Tompkins Hall. All monetary donations can be made through the university’s Office of Development in Kresge Center or at www.tuskegee.edu/give by specifying support for the Tiger’s Den Food Pantry.
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