Tiger Pantry is celebrating its seventh year anniversary Thursday — but it's running on a food shortage.
The pantry is hosting a food drive with the Missouri Students Association, Resident Halls Association and Greek Life this week. Tiger Pantry will also host an open forum for community input Sunday.
Dedicated to fighting hunger at the University of Missouri, Tiger Pantry is committed to providing fresh produce, nonperishable food items and personal hygiene care items to MU students, staff, faculty and their families. Tiger Pantry has provided more than 230,000 pounds of food. More than 250 people pick up items each month.
“There’s that main service aspect of our impact but then also helping educate the community, raise awareness about food insecurity and trying to break the stigma by increasing the dialogue on campus,” Director Mathew Swan said.
A late 2017 study by researchers from The University of Iowa and Temple University, Katharine Broton and Sara Goldrick-Rab, found that approximately half of two-year and four-year students are food insecure. At least one-third of two-year students are housing insecure, while up to 14% are battling homelessness on top of hunger — and lack of housing goes hand-in-hand with food insecurity.
“I know before I volunteered, I really didn’t recognize food insecurity as a problem and I didn’t really know a lot about it, but, through volunteering and then having leadership positions, I really gained a better understanding of the pervasive problem that is at Mizzou and across the U.S.,” Swan said.
Nick Droege, former president of the Missouri Students Association, was inspired by a similar program at the University of Arkansas. He brought a similar concept to Columbia in fall 2012 and founded Tiger Pantry.
Since it's inception, the pantry has increased the hours at its satellite location, set up a location with MU's Parking & Transportation, opened another shift on Thursdays and implemented a choice model.
“People can actually come in and go through our shelves themselves, picking out what items they want,” Swan said. “We’ve really seen a lot of positive feedback through people letting us know that it helps them have a better choice and empowers them to make decisions on what food they’re getting. It also helps with dietary restrictions — making sure people are getting stuff that they’re actually going to be able to use.”
Tiger Pantry’s staff is made up of student volunteers who are chosen each year through an application process.
“Tiger Pantry is led by a student executive board, so it’s completely student run,” Swan said.
Tiger Pantry has a swipes dining program with almost 200 users each month. Students can donate unused swipes at the end of each semester to those in need of more meals.
This fall, it has transferred more than 2,000 swipes — a total value of more than $20,000, according to an email from the Vice Provost for Student Affairs.
Employees of the University of Missouri can make a recurring or single donation to Tiger Pantry through payroll deductions by completing a payroll deduction form. Payroll deductions have significantly declined this semester and are not covering Tiger Pantry’s expenses.
Donations can also be made directly online through one-time credit card donations. Ten dollars provides a day of meals for a family of four, $35 provides one week of nutrition for a single person and $60 feeds a family of four three meals a day for an entire week, according to Tiger Pantry’s website.
“All donations are really important to Tiger Pantry,” Swan said. “We are completely run on donations, so anything people in the community can do to help us is always great and furthers our ability to serve.”