Christina Perry, 24, left, and Stacey Field, right, help stock canned goods and non-perishable food collected during the "Gobble It Up Food Drive" sponsored by the Owens Community College Student Government for Owen's Food Pantry.
Canned fruit, dried beans, and peanut butter are items that Owens Community College students and faculty often find on the shelves of Harvest Food Pantry at the Perrysburg Township campus. But there is something special there this week, just in time for Thanksgiving.
Thirty-five turkeys will be available, thanks to Toledo Seagate Food Bank — the source of many of the donated items in the pantry, according to coordinator Krista Kiessling.
“We couldn’t possibly stay open if it wasn't for them,” she said of the nonprofit clearing house that serves 18 northwest Ohio counties.
The need remains great, said Ms. Kiessling, director of Service Learning and Civic Engagement at Owens.
“The numbers just keep going up, unfortunately. We keep waiting for them to plateau, but they haven’t,” she said.
International studies and world languages student Christina Perry, 24, of Perrysburg volunteers at the pantry every week. She said all kinds of people come in.
“You never know who needs help. You’d be surprised,” she said.
Between 30 and 50 people visit Harvest Food Pantry each week, but many more are benefiting, Ms. Kiessling said.
“We base our numbers not just on the individual student but on the number of people in their household,” she said.
The pantry serves an estimated 500 people a month with about 3,500 pounds of food. Personal hygiene items like shampoo, soap, and toothpaste also are available.
“They ask, ‘How much can I take?’ However much keeps your butt in your seat,” she said, noting she’s never seen anyone abuse the service.
Studying for a degree, teaching a class, or serving the college is hard enough without also being hungry or worried how to make ends meet, she said.
Recently a woman came into the pantry and burst into tears when she discovered deodorant was available. Basic products that help a student feel clean and healthy while sitting in class make a huge difference, said volunteer Stacey Field, 24, of North Toledo.
“It’s really good to be able to give feminine products to people who need them because they’re pretty expensive normally,” said the psychology major, who was stacking boxes of panty liners and tampons on the shelves.
Harvest Food Pantry recently received a case study award through the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education.
“It’s a nice little feather in our cap,” Ms. Kiessling said.
People who receive items from the pantry often volunteer to help unload trucks or work in the community garden, she said, and students volunteer at the Seagate food bank.
An Owens English class has written essays on food insecurity, a math class has calculated the inventory of goods, nursing students have offered blood pressure screenings, and dietician students make display boards on proper nutrition that are posted in the pantry.
“We’re using it as a living-learning lab,” Ms. Kiessling said, adding that a volunteer will be leading a coupon-shopping class during pantry hours to teach folks how to shop for groceries and save money.
Ms. Kiessling said the college administration is very supportive of the pantry and different offices will hold contests and other food drives to collect donations, establishing a culture of philanthropy on campus.
“We’re a community college. This is what we should be all about,” she said.
Harvest Food Pantry is open from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesdays in Kingsley Hall room 104, a new location. A valid Owens student or staff ID is the only requirement for services.
Donations can be dropped off during open hours or by appointment by calling Krista Kiessling at 419-460-1272; pantry staff can pick up donations as well.