May 7, 2020

Student stocking shelves of foodMany in our region have been impacted economically by the COVID-19 pandemic. Students at Shawnee State University who found themselves in need of additional support turned to the SSU Bear Necessities Pantry.

“During everything, we kept the pantry open,” said SSU Director of Student Life Tiffany Hartman. “We knew it was an essential service and wanted our students to know that they could turn to us for help if they needed it.”

Students got the message, said Ty Blanks, a senior business management major from Charleston, WV. Ty has been working as a student employee in the SSU Bear Necessities Pantry this semester. He has also used its services.

“Use of the pantry has increased this semester,” he said. “That’s a good thing. Students who have maybe lost their extra income from part-time jobs or aren’t getting the same level of support from family are able to come in here and get needed food and supplies.”

Blanks said the pantry has been a tremendous help for students juggling college and living expenses.

“If you’re a full-time student, you can’t work the way you want or need,” he said. “I have personally relied on the pantry. This is a great resource and something I’ve appreciated.”

Hartman said that the pantry has received more than 300 visits in the past month, with some students visiting multiple times a week.

“Food has been the top need,” Hartman said. “We feel good knowing that we’re making a difference. Students who visit us are grateful for the support and get excited about special items that people often donate to us — like cough drops or laundry detergent.”

Students also support the pantry in return, she said. “Many of them have donated items back to us when they’re able to ‘pay it forward’ to other classmates who could benefit from a little extra support.”

Support for the pantry from faculty and staff on campus has increased, too, Hartman said.

“Employees have gone out of their way to make sure our shelves remain stocked this semester,” she said. “We have some who routinely pick up an extra pack of toilet paper or bottle of shampoo when they shop for their families.”

The pantry has also received support from SSU’s dining service, Aladdin, and other community supporters. “Together, we’re making an impact,” Hartman said.

Blanks said he tries to deliver his own message to students.

“If you are in need of food, in need of personal necessities, or just in need — please come to the pantry,” he said. “We’ll help get what you need.”