Kathy Zuidema knows that NIU students thirst for knowledge. She doesn’t want them to worry about being hungry as well.
“Everyone’s heard the old adage about starving college students; well, it’s true, and even to a greater extent than we think,” said Zuidema, NIU employer relations specialist and founder of the Huskies Student Food Pantry.
“Statistics show that 12.5 percent of the total population in Illinois is struggling with hunger. This means there could potentially be 2,100 NIU students experiencing food insecurity today.”
The Huskies Student Food Pantry, hosted by Grace Place Campus Ministry, officially opened in March, 2014, and has served more than 700 NIU students.
“Grace Place wants to support students as they pursue their academic goals,” said the Rev. Amy Fallon, campus pastor of Grace Place Campus Ministry. “If they are struggling to make ends meet financially and are not able to feed themselves, it is so much more challenging for them to meet those academic goals. If there is anything we can do to alleviate that stress, we want to be part of that.”
Zuidema shared the sentiment.
“Our mission is to help sustain students who find themselves in food emergencies,” Zuidema said. “Whether a student needs help on one occasion because of an unforeseen expense or needs help on a much more frequent basis, the pantry is able to help.”
Many NIU students don’t have a meal plan and don’t qualify for food assistance programs, which is where the food pantry steps in. Twice a month, the pantry is open to provide non-perishable, supplemental food and other necessities for those NIU students in need of support.
“President Baker speaks frequently about the importance of communiversity and of retention,” Zuidema said. “Students give so much to sustain this community. They work in our businesses; shop in our stores; provide us with theater/arts; athletic entertainment; provide research. They volunteer and fund-raise. I just felt something needed to be done for the Huskies who needed help while here at NIU.”
NIU Career Services supports the initiative by facilitating some of the administrative duties such as managing the hours of operation, stocking, accounting, housekeeping and website management.
Zuidema, who serves as pantry coordinator and champion, said the effort has generated momentum from volunteers as well as donations and support from numerous campus and community organizations.
“The community has really stepped up and also realize that help is needed right here on campus,” she said. “Students who have used the pantry were given a survey and they overwhelmingly said that the food provided to them has helped them remain focused on their studies. That says it all.”
The Huskies Student Food Pantry is located at 401 Normal Road in the Grace Place Campus Ministry building. The next dates of service are from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 5, and Thursday, March 19.
For more information, call (815) 753-8344 or email [email protected].
by Jane Donahue