Ohio University is expanding its on-campus food pantries and, thanks to a new grant, will soon be able to provide perishable food items at those pantries and others in the community.
PepsiCo awarded its Recycling Zero Impact Fund grant of $9,982 to Ohio University to pay for seven refrigerators, seven freezers and seven commercial meat thermometers that can be used to safely transport and store leftover Culinary Services food to area food pantries. This will be particularly important at the end of semesters, when some left-over produce and perishable food items cannot be frozen or kept fresh until the next semester.
“This new grant will assist Ohio University meet two objectives, assistance for our students and community members in need and increased sustainability through reduced waste generated to landfills,” Ohio University President M. Duane Nellis said. “This initiative will provide more and better food options for those in need and enhances OHIO’s role in supporting it students and the Athens community.”
Basic Needs OHIO, in partnership with Athens Food Rescue, applied for the PepsiCo grant. The equipment will allow the University to keep left-over food out a landfill and instead provide a critical economic and social benefit by fighting hunger among students and community members.
The grant will increase the capacity to store perishable and non-perishable food, and increase the awareness of and participation in end-of-semester food recovery drives. It also increases partnerships with campus- and community-based food pantries and food rescue organizations.
Basic Needs OHIO was launched in Fall 2017 to coordinate efforts across the University to assist those in need, whether of food, shelter or finances, to ensure they are able to thrive at OHIO and complete their educations.
“The success of the Baker Food Pantry reflects the growing national need for food assistance for some students, and we’re happy to be able to support the effort to fill that need for our students,” Ohio University Interim Executive Vice President and Provost Elizabeth Sayrs said.
Events Services Executive Director Dustin Kilgour, who oversees the Baker food pantries, said departments from the Division of Student Affairs refill the pantries each Monday and the food is usually gone by Friday.
The food pantries to be impacted include two Baker University Center food pantries, the Heritage College of Medicine Food Pantry, the Ohio Southern Campus Food Pantry, and Athens Food Rescue and its community meal and pantry partners. OHIO opened one food pantry on the second floor of Baker University Center during Fall Semester of 2017 and a second on the third floor in January. The Heritage College food pantry is in the planning stages, along with an upgrade of the Southern food pantry.
“We are grateful to have the support of PepsiCo in this important endeavor. It’s equally exciting to see how our community continues to respond to the needs of our students and our region,” Vice President of Student Affairs and Interim Chief Diversity Officer Jason Pina said. “From the grant writing process to our recent pantry expansion, the OHIO community is continually trying to improve upon efforts to meet the basic needs of students and residents in Southeast Ohio.”
OHIO already has a number of waste reduction strategies in place through Culinary Services, the Office of Sustainability and Office of Recycling and Zero Waste. The University has partnered with Athens Food Rescue to divert recoverable food from the waste stream; however, the amount that can be diverted is severely limited by a lack of storage for perishable food items. OHIO’s food pantries do not have the refrigerators and freezers necessary to store perishable food for distribution, and community clients of Athens Food Rescue do not have enough refrigerators and freezers available. More than half of Athens Food Rescue’s charity clients could use a freezer and/or a refrigerator to store perishable food.
The Basic Needs OHIO collaborative includes the Division of Student Affairs, the Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine, the Wealth and Poverty Theme Faculty, and Ohio University-Southern. It provides educational outreach, advertising and marketing of the program and will coordinate with Student Senate, the Office of Sustainability and the Office of Recycling and Zero Waste to increase student and faculty-staff awareness of the program.