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Food pantry may be coming to UW-River Falls campus in fall semester

March 8, 2017

A food pantry, tentatively called Falcon Pantry, may be coming to the UW-River Falls campus this fall, thanks in part to a fundraiser held on Sunday.

To raise money for the pantry, UWRF Collegiate 4-H and Journey House Campus Ministry held Soup Sensations on March 5. Bowls of chicken noodle soup and vegetable and bean soup were served for $5 to eat in and $8 to take a quart of soup to go.

Tiffany Miller, the vice president of UWRF 4-H, said that approximately 200 servings of soup were made for the fundraiser, and all of it was sold.

“We had a great turnout, and it sounds like we have great support from the community about opening up a food pantry on campus,” Miller said.

Miller said that she and 4-H President Mikayla Wehrle got the idea to open a food pantry at UWRF after attending a Collegiate 4-H conference at Iowa State University. Miller said that she realized that a food pantry would be a good way for 4-H to get involved and fulfill a need on campus.

The fundraiser was also important to Karalyn Littlefield of the Animal and Food Science Department at UWRF, as it served as her community event for the Landmark Self-Expression and Leadership Program. Littlefield said that food security is a passion of hers.

“I believe that it’s an innate right that, all over the world, we should have sufficient food security,” Littlefield said. “Everyone deserves to eat.”

Bill Peterson, a fellow Landmark program graduate, said he attended the event in part because he knows there is an unseen need on college campuses.

“There are a lot of college kids that I know skip meals,” Peterson said. “The parents aren’t able to help their students, so they skip meals.”

Littlefield said that she has seen this happen with her students firsthand. She thought of one of her students who decided to spend his last dollars on a meal rather than paying to print off a paper for class. Littlefield said she is keeping instant noodles in her office for students now.

Teresa Ginn, Journey House’s administrative director, said that the campus ministry decided to get involved because the ministry has seen a need from students attending its free weekly meals, especially when it comes to students who live off campus.

“What we’ve heard time and time again from them is that, ‘Oh my gosh, it’s so nice to have a warm meal. I didn’t have much to eat today,’” Ginn said. “I think the combination of rent and car and all the utilities and all the things they’re paying sometimes just leaves them searching for ways to eat and to eat healthy.”

Campus Minister Laura Ramlow said Journey House aims to support UWRF students in all ways possible, but that there is more to it than simply feeding them.

“For us here, too, it’s also bringing people together, and that’s something that we’re seeing through this collaboration,” Ramlow said. “We’re looking at these amazing student leaders in this 4-H club, we’re looking at the student leadership that we have here and looking at that piece of collaboration, and that’s exciting for us.”

The fundraiser would not have happened without volunteers. 12-year-old Jackson Cooper peeled vegetables and volunteered at Soup Sensations for a Boy Scouts race and for service hours toward his Confirmation. Cooper said that he enjoys doing things for other people.

“Sometimes you just have to come out and help,” Cooper said. “You can’t just sit at your house and do nothing all the time. There’s going to be a point in time where somebody’s going to ask you for help, and are you going to jump at the chance or are you not?”

The Falcon Pantry will be receiving guidance and support from the River Falls Community Food Pantry, and certain items may be exchanged between the two pantries if one has an excess of something the other needs.

Although an exact location is yet to be determined, Miller said that the pantry will likely be a small closet-like space in the Agricultural Science building, ideally opening in the fall.