SGA Food Pantry

Student Government Association Opens Food Pantry

The University’s Student Government Association (SGA) is launching The Nest, a food pantry that will be open later this semester to provide non-perishable items to serve food insecure students on campus.

The food pantry is located in the lower level of Laurel Hall, which was previously a classroom space, before the proper equipment and shelving were added. Currently, The Nest is stocked with items such as rice, pasta, oatmeal and other canned goods, and is slated to officially open within the next few weeks, according to Nicholas Verzicco, a senior business administration student.

“[It was suggested by] Jihad Johnson (graduate student studying student affairs and college counseling) and current SGA President Mehdi Husaini (a junior biology student) [who] attended the Conference on Student Government Associations (COSGA),” explained Verzicco, citing that the idea came from one of the workshops at the event. “They explained that other universities have food pantries that assist their student population. I loved this idea and asked if I could take the initiative on this.”

“I think it’s very timely,” said Mary Anne Nagy, Vice President of Student Life and Leadership Engagement. “You’re starting to see [facilities] like this pop up on campuses across the country.” She emphasized that food insecurity is still a major issue at Monmouth, and often goes unaddressed, especially among members of the graduate student and international student communities, as well as students living in the apartments on campus or in off campus rentals.

“Upwards of 30 percent of all college students are food insecure,” said Vaughn Clay, Ph. D., Director of Off-Campus and Commuter Services. “In the many years that I’ve been working with students from an off-campus perspective, I’ve probably had… a dozen or two who told me they were worried about [living] costs and that was going to bleed into their ability to purchase food.”

“The food pantry is [mainly] targeted towards students that live on or off-campus that do not have a meal plan,” said Verzicco.

For Verzicco, this exemplified an effort where University students and administration were able to collaborate, “Administration, faculty and students have supported the idea and really believe that this can help our Hawk Family,” he said. “With the help of Swannack and Nagy we were able to secure a location and shelving. Our SGA Executive Board worked together on establishing The Nest as the pantry’s name.”

“President Dimenna was very supportive, and the Board of Trustees were also very supportive,” said Nagy in regard to the reception of the idea. Nagy also stressed that University employees along with Gourmet Dining are eager to contribute to the stock of food present through food drives and donations, while administration is considering placing student workers in the facility to help distribute and organize food. According to her, money from the student discipline funds may also be used to supplement the effort, while products from the community garden may be added in the long term.

“We’ve also received a generous donation from the Brick Campaign which was used to purchase the first few items to stock up the food pantry,” said Leslie Valdez, junior homeland security student and Vice President of SGA. “We recently received a sponsorship from Coca Cola as well and we have hopes for many more sponsorships in the near future.”

The project symbolizes a necessary step for the University community to become a more closely-knit environment, according to Verzicco. “I believe that Monmouth Hawks fly together and The Nest is here to ensure that their college experience is as good as it gets,” he said, “They say all good things happen over good food and good people. I like to think we have both to offer.”

“SGA has many plans to help expand the food pantry initiative this year, beginning with seeking help from our on campus resources,” said Valdez. “Some of our plans include a possible Parking Ticket Forgiveness Day where students will be allowed to have one on-campus parking ticket forgiven in exchange for canned goods which will go towards the campus food pantry.”

“A lot of the struggle is figuring out logistics,” Verzicco said, noting that there are still challenges to be overcome. “For example, hours, inventory, number of meals to put in the bag and what to put in the bags. With the help of the Monmouth family and a lot of research we are making great progress.”

“The key to any one of these programs is consistency,” said Clay. “Consistency in the way in which you market the program, consistency in the way you’re staffing it.” Clay emphasized the importance of communicating with other organizations that have similar causes to allow the food pantry to serve as many students as possible.

Verzicco encouraged students to use the hashtag “#HawksFeedingHawks” on social media to spread the word about the pantry, as one of the next major focuses of the project is branding and presentation to the local community.

“I think the future is very bright,” said Nagy. “My hope is that students who are of need will come and take advantage of the [pantry]…and people feel safe and comfortable in being able to come forward.”

“I’m excited that Student Government has been leading the way in this [effort],” said Clay. He urged students who wish to help with the cause to email, and get involved with SGA’s work. “I’m looking forward to opening day and when we’re able to start welcoming students in, and watching it grow over the semester, the year, and from that point forward.”

PHOTO TAKEN by Mehdi Husaini