Parkland’s new food pantry will provide for its students

A new food pantry is scheduled to open at Parkland College and will serve as an added resource to support students in need. 

The pantry, which is scheduled to open Dec. 11 in the college’s “S Building,” is an offshoot of the Wesley Foundation’s Wesley Evening Food Pantry, which is located at the Wesley United Methodist Church, 1203 W. Green St. 

The Wesley Foundation will be running the pantry and managing the volunteers, said Wesley Evening Food Pantry Director Donna Camp. 

In its first few months of operation, Parkland’s pantry will be accessible from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the second Wednesday of every month, but Camp said adjustments may be made as they find what works at the location. 

Marietta Turner, Parkland College dean of students, said the idea for opening the pantry stemmed from seeing a need for food assistance from some students and wanting to give greater support to the students in need, especially the school’s veteran population.

After meeting with the Eastern Illinois Foodbank, which will be helping to support the pantry, the project moved forward.

“We were happy to meet with them about how to help our vets when they return, help assist them and their families, and to assist our other students who are trying to be successful,” Turner said. “Out of that meeting over a year ago, we moved forward with the idea.”

Along with having a high number of veterans attending school at Parkland, many students work, some full time while trying to earn their degrees.

“There are a lot of single families and veterans that are really trying to take their life to the next level and are trying to get that degree,” said Eastern Illinois Foodbank Spokeswoman Julie Melton. “So opening a pantry was just kind of a natural step for us.”

By supporting students with their needs for food, Turner hopes they feel supported in their academics as well. 

“We are hoping that the impact (will be) letting people know that we support their ability to be successful by meeting some basic needs,” Turner said. 

Having the pantry on campus will help accommodate many students’ busy schedules, Camp said. For students who work full time, attend classes and need to care for families, there is not always time for them to stop at other area pantries. 

“They really have a need for something that is right there on campus so, if they can get to class 30 minutes early, they can swing by the pantry and pick something up,” Camp said. “Otherwise, they really don’t have access to emergency food.”

Melton hopes the pantry will give working students, specifically those supporting families, a peace of mind when it comes to providing for their families while in school.

“If they don’t know where their children are going to eat, that’s going to consume them, and that’s all they’re going to be able to worry about,” Melton said. “They are not going to be able to concentrate on their jobs ... and on their studies, so we are just trying to make them as successful as possible.”

After listening to stories from Parkland students, Camp said she likes being able to support these working students receiving an education and trying to better their futures. “They are planning for their future, doing something great for the future and are (making) great sacrifices in the now,” Camp said. “The number of students who are going to school full time and working full time and trying to eat on $10 a week is astounding. And they feel and sound hopeful, and they are doing good things for themselves. I think we should support that.” 

Miranda can be reached at mwhollo2@dailyillini.com.