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AREA’S FIRST SCHOOL PANTRY: Partnership with food bank expands college’s outreach to students



Arleen Peterson, executive director of the Food Bank of Northwest Indiana, and Denise Compton, president of GIVE (Get Involved, Value Everyone) at Calumet College of St. Joseph, discuss the college's food pantry, which has recently teamed with the regional food bank. The pantry, serving CCSJ students and staff, is the area's first school-based food pantry.

(Steve Euvino photo)


By Steve Euvino

Northwest Indiana Catholic


     WHITING – College students need to eat, and not just pizza and munchies. Some collegians, however, may not have the funds for a decent meal.

     Calumet College of St. Joseph opened a food pantry several years ago. Now, through a partnership with the Food Bank of Northwest Indiana, the college hopes to serve more students.

     At a press conference on Aug. 22 to announce the partnership, the college’s service engagement club GIVE (Get Involved, Value Everyone) announced it is teaming with the food bank to further develop the area’s first school-based pantry. Members of GIVE will manage the pantry.

     “Many people don’t think about the need for hunger relief for college students and their families, but the truth is it’s growing in need,” said Arleen Peterson, executive director of the regional food bank serving nearly 100 food pantries and soup kitchens in Lake and Porter counties. “Students attending college are families in transition who can benefit from additional resources.”

     Located in the lower level of the college’s main building, the CCSJ food pantry consists of two rooms, one for dry goods and non-perishables and the other room containing a refrigerator and freezer for meats and produce. The pantry, which prior to the partnership relied solely on donations, also provides some toiletries.

     Through the partnership, the college will receive some free food, along with food at reduced prices. Last year the food bank distributed more than 5 million pounds of food and served more than 5,000 persons weekly.

     Peterson said one in six persons in Indiana is food-insecure (not knowing where the next meal is coming from), including 104,000 persons in Lake and Porter counties, 30,000 of whom are children.

     Jessica Compton, president of GIVE, said the pantry started with donations from faculty and students. The college group sponsors other activities throughout the year to create hunger awareness and stock the pantry.

     “We serve as that bridge to bring together individuals who share the same passion for volunteering,” Compton said.

     The pantry is open to all CCSJ students two days a week, Tuesdays, 3-6 p.m., and Fridays, 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Clients will need their student ID card or provide their ID number. Students, whose confidentiality is respected, may visit the pantry twice a month. During each visit a student will receive two bags of items of her/his choice.

     Dr. Daniel Lowery, CCSJ president, praised the partnership and participation by staff and students. Calling Calumet College a “college family,” Lowery said, “Family members don’t let family members go hungry. That’s not how it works.”

     Compton hopes client numbers grow from 10 to 30 students each month. Exact figures were not available as to how many students have used the pantry.

     Peterson, Compton, and Diane Bailey, director of student activities at CCSJ, toured the pantry, where shelves were filled with such staples as soups, peanut butter, beans, tuna, and pasta. Peterson noted the presence of one-dish meals, including macaroni and cheese.

     Through the food bank, Peterson said, the pantry patrons will have access to more protein, including ground pork and fresh fruits and vegetables.

     Several parishes in the Diocese of Gary have food pantries. Others have conferences of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul or similar ministries that serve the needy. Peterson hopes more schools follow CCSJ in developing food pantries.

     Having a pantry in a school, Peterson said, provides “one more place” of service. Schools have a built-in population, leading to a certain comfort level, the food bank director said.

     “People are comfortable in a school. The infrastructure is in place,” Peterson said. “They know their needs are being met, and they’re comfortable where they are.”

    Note: For more information about the Calumet College of St. Joseph food pantry call Diane Bailey at 473-4222.

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