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August 30, 2019

UNG’s new tactic for fighting student hunger

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Georgia Mountain Food Bank neighborhood fresh coordinator Art Gallegos joins University of North Georgia Gainesville students and volunteers setting up a mobile food pantry Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2019, in the parking lot. The event, while in the school parking lot, is welcoming students, faculty, staff and community members. – photo by Scott Rogers

Domini’que Allen, a senior at the University of North Georgia’s Gainesville campus, knows what it’s like to open up her fridge or pantry and see nothing.

She has witnessed food insecurity among friends, fellow students, university staff members and others in the community.

Seeing the need on the Gainesville campus, Allen coordinated with Carly Redding — who founded the university’s first stationary food pantry — to take her hunger-fighting efforts mobile.

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University of North Georgia’s Dr. Carly Redding works with students and volunteers Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2019, at a mobile food pantry in the school’s parking lot at the Gainesville campus. Redding is the director of the UNG food pantry. – photo by Scott Rogers

The mobile food pantry parked outside the university’s Continuing Education and Performing Arts building on Wednesday, Aug. 28. Allen said this was the second time it has gone “mobile” at the campus, the first time being in April 2019 to celebrate the food pantry’s three-year anniversary.

The mobile food pantry offers its free services to students, faculty, staff and community members.

Redding, interim director of academic engagement, said the amount of people helped in one day with the mobile food pantry is typically what the campus sees with the stationary location in two months.

On campus, Allen said the food pantry is deep in the student center, beside the cafeteria. With the mobile location, people are free to drive by and pick up food without having to enter a building full of people.

“I’ve experienced a lot of students feeling ashamed to come into the pantry,” Allen said. “Food insecurity is a very vulnerable time in a person’s life. The mobile food pantry provides a space for students beyond prying eyes, just to get what they need with no shame and guilt.”

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University of North Georgia Gainesville students and volunteers set up a mobile food pantry Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2019, in the school parking lot. The event, while in the school parking lot, is welcoming students, faculty, staff and community members. – photo by Scott Rogers

At the Gainesville campus, Redding said many students have admitted to missing more than one meal a day.

“It’s one of the most known issues on college campuses,” Redding said. “Most all of the larger universities have food pantries now because it’s recognized.”

Joyce Resente visited the mobile food pantry on Wednesday, bringing back fresh produce for her mother and six sisters.

During her summer semester, Resente said she went to the food pantry every week.

“When I come home, my little sister always asks me, ‘Did you go to the food pantry?’” Resente said. “I love it, it’s really good and helpful for me and my family.”

Marivic Holden works part time while attending the university as a full-time student. She said the food pantry gives her the option of having lunch when she’s working or at school.

For her human services major, Holden decided to intern at the university’s food pantry.

“I saw food insecurity and what’s really going on,” Holden said. “I find that this really helps a lot.”

When she brought out the first mobile food pantry to the campus in April, Allen said she met a man who ran out of food stamps and didn’t know how where he would find his next meal.

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Volunteer Pam Kenney joins University of North Georgia Gainesville students and volunteers setting up a mobile food pantry Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2019, in the school’s parking lot. The event, while in the school parking lot, is welcoming students, faculty, staff and community members. – photo by Scott Rogers

“He saw our sign and said it was a godsend,” Allen recounted. “That moment still sticks in my mind because you don’t know what a person is experiencing in their life. I was able to give something to someone who desperately needed it. He was able to have enough food to last him until his next payday.”

The university partners with the Georgia Mountain Food Bank, which provides the supplies for the food pantry.

Art Gallegos, Georgia Mountain Food Bank’s neighborhood fresh coordinator, said the agency regularly drops food off at colleges and universities because of the strong need.

“You may think that the kids are there for studying and school, but these kids are eating once or twice a day because they’re spending their money on their books, on gas, on things they need, even if they have help from the educational side,” Gallegos said. “When we offer this type of partnership, it’s just great for everyone.”

Allen said the mobile food pantry plans to park on the Gainesville campus at least once a semester.

She encourages people to take advantage of the fresh produce, meats and packaged goods it has to offer.

“There’s no shame,” Allen said. “We’re not going to judge you, we just want to help you. We want you to be your best self and to give you that equitable boost, so you can achieve what you came here to do.”

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University of North Georgia Gainesville senior Domini’que Allen works the mobile food pantry Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2019, in the school’s parking lot. The event, while in the school parking lot, is welcoming students, faculty, staff and community members. – photo by Scott Rogers

August 30, 2019