Parkland student dean wins food security award

Peter Floess

Staff Writer

Parkland College Dean of Students Marietta Turner received the Champaign County Innovation in Engagement Award from Parkland College during the

Photo by Scott Wells | The Prospectus Parkland's Dean of Students, Marietta Turner, stands outside her office on Feb. 4, 2016. Dean Turner has been with Parkland for over seven years, serving as an advocate for student rights and responsibilities.

Photo by Scott Wells | The Prospectus
Parkland’s Dean of Students, Marietta Turner, stands outside her office on Feb. 4, 2016. Dean Turner has been with Parkland for over seven years, serving as an advocate for student rights and responsibilities.

annual Innovation Celebration for her work on the food insecurity at Parkland College and in the surrounding local community.

According to Communications Director at the Champaign County Economic Development Corporation Carly McCory the award “recognizes an individual or group at Parkland College who has shown support of the college’s community engagement mission.”

“[It] is not merely an award for accomplishment, but a benchmark of success for those outstanding individuals, organizations and corporations who are nominated and selected to receive this prestigious award,” McCory said.

Dean Marietta Turner remembers the food pantry at Parkland started because over two years ago, one of the directors of the college was on the board of the Eastern Illinois Food Bank. President and CEO of the Eastern Illinois Food Bank Jim Hires approached the Director on the board to see if Parkland would want to host a food pantry.

Hires had been reading a lot about food insecurity among American college students, so he was interested in making Parkland one of the first community colleges with a food pantry in the Eastern Illinois Food Bank district.

The director set up a meeting with the Parkland vice president at the time and Turner. Turner agreed to organize the Food Pantry.

Before the Food Pantry came to Parkland, Dean Turner had a drawer with “oatmeal cup, milk cup, apple sauce, granola bars, and macaroni cups” that students would ask for, because they were hungry and she thought to herself a food pantry would be better than this.

Turner also agreed to help setting up the food bank for two other reasons: from an educational point of view, she understands how hunger can impede learning; from a moral point of view, she says the idea of “people going to bed hungry bothers her.”

“Dean Turner was instrumental in securing the space the pantry currently uses to distribute food,” said director of Wesley Food Pantry Katalyna Thomas. “In short, she helped obtain the needed approval from Parkland administration to set up a pantry on campus by successfully advocating for its need. She has also been indispensable in increasing awareness on campus about the food pantry and thus helping us secure volunteers and donations to help support the food pantry.”

Dean Turner is proud that the Food Pantry which is in S building is now opened on the first and third Saturday of each month from 10 AM to noon and the second and fourth Wednesday, from 11 AM to 1 PM and from 4 to 6 PM.

Dean Turner is proud of the fact that the Eastern Illinois Food Bank is now receiving goods from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, such as chickens and eggs.

Food insecurity is a major problem in Champaign County.

“One-in-three children in Champaign County are food-insecure,” said Turner. “The American Association of Community College Trustees says one-in-five students at a community college are food insecure.”

A fact that Turner believes in Illinois is caused by the cutting of the funding of social services by the state and the lack of funding of personal scholarships for students. Turner feels that many students would choose buying school supplies over buying food.

Turner says a family can be provided with enough food for a week for only six dollars. She gave the example of the soccer team of both genders in the past has hosted a fundraiser for the Food Pantry.

Turner wants people to remember that if they are blessed with food, they should help people who do not have enough food.

There are many ways to help the food pantry at Parkland College. A student organization could host a food collection for non-perishable items or a fundraiser.

Parkland students can volunteer at the Parkland College Food Pantry. Volunteers can do a number of tasks from unloading trucks to helping customers shop.

If you interested in helping the food pantry at Parkland contract Turner, or Activities Program Manager for Student Life Chaya Sandler.