Spartan Food Pantry Receives Record Donations, Harris Teeter Pledge

photo of the spartan food pantryContributions of more than 15,000 items have helped NSU’s Spartan Food Pantry provide food security, as well as other needed items, to support the academic wellness of students while attending Norfolk State University. The university thanked contributors for not only non-perishable food items but also necessary toiletries and household items. This helps to ensure that students in need can focus on learning instead of worrying about everyday necessities.

In addition, Harris Teeter announced their pledge to contribute $50,000 over the next five years to help support the Spartan Food Pantry, and will do the same for four other regional HBCUs. Harris Teeter had already established partnerships with the Jamil Niner Food Bank at UNCC and Appalachian State University’s Mountaineer Food Resource Hub.

“At Harris Teeter, we’re proud to feed our communities,” said Paige Pauroso, communication specialist for Harris Teeter. “We realize that many people in our communities struggle with food insecurity, including college students. That’s why our partnership with these student food pantry programs is so important. We want to ensure students have access to fresh and nutritious food, so they can concentrate on their education and well-being.”

As an integral part of the MLK National Day of Service, Norfolk State University sponsored the food and essential items pantry drive from Monday, Jan. 17, through Monday, Jan. 31. Dr. DoVeanna Fulton, provost and vice president for academic affairs, made it clear that service should be a major aspect of NSU’s MLK Day remembrance this year.

“Food insecurity on college campuses is a real issue that is often ignored,” said Dr. Khadijah O. Miller. “Yet, the pantries on NSU’s campus for residential students and for commuter students are part of our response and solution.”

According to The Hope Center, 39% of surveyed college students across the country had experienced recent food insecurity, an issue that has continued to grow during the pandemic.

This year’s drive featured an Amazon virtual pantry where contributors could go online through Amazon.com and pick what items and how many they wished to donate. The university shared the link on social media throughout the drive. Contributors could also drop off items in a contactless manner at the Melvin & Patricia Stith Alumni House or ship items there.

The effort helped support three pantry locations on campus: the main pantry in the Residential Complex and pantries in the Dean of Students and Student Activities offices. The pantries not only support resident students but commuter students as well.

soap and sundriesPresident Javaune Adams-Gaston and Provost Fulton toured the newly stocked pantry in the Residential Complex on Friday, Feb. 19, with NSU Alumnae Dr. Faith Fitzgerald, Vice President for Campus Life & Diversity Initiatives; Brianna Steele, Associate Director for Residence Life & Academic Initiatives and administrator of the Spartan Food Pantry; and ReNecia Thornton, Interim Director for Housing & Residence Life.

“You have such a wide variety of products,” Provost Fulton observed. “This is such a wonderful service to our students. It really is inspirational.”

And the number of items and their organization impressed all in attendance.

“The way you’ve set it up is beautiful so that you feel good about coming in here,” President Adams-Gaston said. “This is like going to the grocery store. And, of course, everybody feels much better when you’re in a situation where you feel like you’re valued.”

Provost Fulton also saw the pantry as a learning opportunity where students could learn non-profit administration.

“The opportunity for students to intern here or work with the leadership of the food bank is really important,” she said. “It’s quite valuable.”

President Adams-Gaston agreed.

“And I love that we have three food banks,” she said. “This is excellent. It really is.”

The Spartan Food Pantry was first conceptualized by Fitzgerald and Steele after attending a NASPA Conference workshop on Food Insecurities. Steele registered the NSU Food Pantry with the College & University Food Bank Alliance of America in July 2017.

At that time, NSU was the only Virginia HBCU registered with the alliance. The official ribbon-cutting ceremony was held on Oct. 25th in Babette Smith Hall with the Norfolk State Alumni Association's (NSUAA) Peninsula Chapter being one of its first contributors. Currently, donations are received from alumni throughout the country and each of the 26 NSUAA chapters.

The Spartan Food Pantry has been highlighted in publications such as New Journal & Guide as well as USA Today. For more information on the Spartan Food Pantry, call (757) 823-8407 or email housing@nsu.edu.