University Blesses New On-Campus Food Pantry In Grand Opening

Thursday, August 29, 2019
Woman blesses the door of a pantry with oil

According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, American colleges are facing a growing challenge of food insecurity on their campuses.

Though survey results vary from institution to institution and from two-year to four-year colleges, some surveys have found as many as 50 percent of students experiencing some level of food insecurity.

Rockhurst University is not immune to this — close to 30 percent of students who responded to the 2018 campus climate survey reported struggling with having enough food.

More than 650 institutions across the U.S. have opened on-campus food pantries to try to meet the needs of their students in this regard. On Thursday, Rockhurst University officially joined that number with a grand opening and blessing for Grandma’s Pantry inside Massman Hall.

The pantry actually opened for the first time at the end of the previous academic year and remained so through the summer months. Stocked with non-perishable staples, grab and go options, and a selection of frozen meals, the pantry is designed with a simple, free-will philosophy at its heart — take what you need, leave what you can. And the pantry has made an impact even in the short time since it opened, according to Laura Fitzpatrick, Ph.D., professor of economics, director of curriculum management and assessment, and head of the food justice committee.

“I can assure you that the messages that we get back are some of the most touching notes you can imagine, where people talk about what a difference this made in their life,” she said.

The pantry’s name was inspired by a member of the food justice initiative, who remembered that at grandma’s house, there was always food available, no questions asked. It’s something that, Fitzpatrick, just clicked once it was said out loud.

“Once people hear that story, they say, ‘Yes, that’s so true,’” she said.

One of the people for whom that origin had a familiar ring was Nancy Creasy, ’84, vice chairwoman of the University’s board of trustees. Her grandmother, Peggy Ems, was well known in the family for saying, “No one is ever going to go without food in our family,” and offering help in tough times. Inspired by those memories, Creasy and members of her family have since pledged financial support for the pantry.

“We want this to be contagious,” she said. “This is a big issue everywhere, and we hope we can start some momentum here and have people honor those in their families who have been like that.”

In providing an additional resource for students, faculty and staff in need, University President the Rev. Thomas B. Curran, S.J., said the pantry and the ongoing food justice initiative that set it up is another way to welcome all into the University community as companions.

“We committed ourselves as a university to making sure that everyone feels it is their home,” he said.

Grandma's Pantry is open between 8:30 a.m. and 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 8:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. on Friday.