Wesley Food Pantry a resource for those with food needs
The Wesley Food Pantry is a food assistance service that is available to students and members of the community.
“The aim of the Wesley pantry is to provide our students and the community—it’s open to both students and community—with food,” says Marietta Turner, dean of students at Parkland.
The American Association of Community College found through a recent study that it is a larger issue than people realized—one in seven students’ is food insufficient.
“…Champaign Coun-ty alone has one in five children who are food insufficient,” Turner said. “We’re trying to figure out—what can we do?” Turner said. Turner says a student’s situation outside of college can greatly impact their academic performance, and that the college wants to help “to supply them with a safety net” with the pantry.
In 2008, Turner says she noticed that there were a sizable number of students who were stealing because they were trying to make money for food. So, she decided to try and help students by bringing the Wesley Food Pantry to Parkland.
“The idea here is, ‘let’s see what we can do to support the student,’” said Turner “You could save a couple hundred dollars a month on your food bill.”
Some students, however, see the food negatively—as a handout—but there exist opportunities for students to volunteer, and while they are there, they can take some food to take home.
“If you go on their website, they need people to help unload trucks, they need people to help stock the shelves, they need people to take folks shopping. If you do that you can grab [yourself] some food while you’re at it,” Turner said. “You do that a couple of times a month and you go to the other pantry…and you’ve really helped your food budget.”
Wesley also assists students with recipe cards, which helps them know how to use the food that they acquire at the pantry or give them new ideas for recipes.
“Helping students understand how to cook, how to use the food in the pantry, how do you make things that are nutritious and are quick and handy,” said Turner of the recipe cards.
The food options at the pantry are varied; it’s not just quick pre-processed foods.
“In the summer we have apples and bananas. I had to throw away a case of bananas because people didn’t come get them in time,” Turner said.
The main purpose of the pantry at Parkland is to help students. It is open year around, so students who stick around during winter or summer also have access to it. Members of the community as well have access to the pantry.
It is easy to get food from the pantry, and very little is required.
“When they stop in they are going to be asked, ‘Are you a Parkland student or in a household with a Parkland student?’ and they ask for an ID,” Turner said. “They do not ask for any type of monetary requirements. The idea for Wesley is that if someone is hungry we will feed them.”
The only real limitations are quantities of certain food items, which can be limited. Sometimes they have more than food, such as household cleaning supplies.
The pantry has helped students earn their degree during rough times as well.
“I had a student tell me, ‘I would not have made it to [graduation] that last semester.’ Her and her boyfriend had broken up, she was out of a job and struggling and had it not been for the pantry [she] would not have been able to concentrate,” Turner said.
Wesley Food Pantry provides free food at Parkland every week on Wednesdays from 11 a.m.–1 p.m. and on the first and third Saturdays of every month from 10 a.m.–12 p.m. The pantry can found in room M138.
For more information about the pantry, visit wesleypantry.org.