MLK Day Service Project Collects Food for Spartan Pantry

This year, when the Martin Luther King Jr. Committee began brainstorming ideas to honor Dr. King, it was faced with the task of determining how to replace the normally live and in-person event with an equally successful one.

Dr. DoVeanna Fulton, provost and vice president for academic affairs, made it clear that service should be a major aspect of the remembrance, recalled Dr. Khadijah O. Miller, MLK committee chair and interim dean of the RC Nusbaum Honors College.

Based on that directive and student input, the committee decided to sponsor a food and essential items drive from Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Jan. 18 through Jan. 31 to help Norfolk State students and build up items in the Spartan Pantry. The Office of Alumni Relations and Annual Giving and the Athletics Department volunteered to serve as coordinating partners, along with the Honors College.

“Food insecurity on college campuses is a real issue that is often ignored,”  said Miller, “yet, the pantries on NSU’s campus—for residential students (Babbette Smith Hall, Midrise Honors Residential College, and Spartan Suites)  and for commuter students (Student Activities Building)—are part of our response/solution.”  

“As the first HBCU to join the National College & University Foodbank Alliance in Virginia, we have had the support of our faculty/staff, alumni, and the community from its inception,” said Dr. Faith Fitzgerald, executive director of housing and residence life. “The level of giving for the 2021 MLK Day of Service food drive highlights the enormous commitment our Spartan Family has to student success for all NSU students.”

Miller also noted that the project continues NSU’s longstanding tradition of providing education, service, and resources inside and outside of the classroom. Once the project was decided, the committee took it one step farther by registering the effort on the Presidential Inauguration Committee website. “Being listed as a national partner for the Presidential Inauguration Day of Service increased our exposure and validated our efforts in serving the students at NSU, who are a vital part of the community,” Miller said. “Being listed also reinforced the importance of this work.”

President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris made participating in service activities on the King Holiday a part of their inaugural activities and called upon Americans to do the same. MLK Day is the only federal holiday designated as a national day of service.

Michelle Hill, executive director of alumni relations and annual giving, knew that when the call went out that Norfolk State’s community and supporters would respond. She explained that alumni, student groups and community partners all participated. “Some of our largest donations came from area houses of worship and alumni chapters, specifically First Baptist Church of South Hill and the Pure Gold Alumni Chapter-NSUAA.”

 “What has surprised me the most is the volume and the level of generosity at which people responded. Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, people are still helping those in need.”