Food pantry helps students at Bay

ESCANABA — Early last month, the Bay College Student Food Pantry started assisting current Bay students. TRiO Student Support Services Executive Director Jill Wiese-Martin, who is one of the pantry’s supervisors, said things have been going well for this initiative so far.

“We opened the door Nov. 8,” she said.

The possibility of having a food pantry at Bay College has been discussed in the past, Wiese-Martin said.

“The idea’s been floating around for quite some time,” she said. However, the concept is still a timely one — a 2016 study done by the National Student Campaign Against Hunger and Homelessness found that more than 25 percent of community college students qualified as having very low food security.

The idea of having a food pantry at Bay was revived when Wiese-Martin asked TRIO students to choose a service project they wanted to work on during the 2016-17 school year.

“They chose a student food pantry,” she said.

From that point on, TRiO students have played an important role in the food pantry’s development and operation.

“They’re continuing to work on it, (and) they’re staffing it,” she said. Members of the Bay Business Professionals of America are also helping to staff and manage the pantry.

The college has supported the food pantry, as well. The Bay College Faculty Association purchased a new freezer for the pantry, and a commercial refrigerator and shelving were donated by the college.

Bay’s food pantry has also been helped by organizations in the community. Escanaba’s St. Vincent de Paul food pantry has provided them with advice on how to operate a pantry, and they have partnered with the Salvation Army’s pantry in Escanaba to redistribute food as needed. Food is donated to Bay’s pantry by Escanaba’s Aldi store on a weekly basis.

Wiese-Martin said she believes the food pantry will give some Bay students an opportunity to have a more healthy diet.

“I’m hoping that we can upgrade the quality of food available to students,” she said.

To this end, the pantry offers a wide variety of food items.

“We try to provide a complete, balanced selection of nutritional items,” Wiese-Martin said. Food items available at the pantry include vegetables, fruits, meats, bread, dry goods, canned goods, and more. Personal hygiene items are also available at the pantry.

An open house event in celebration of the pantry’s grand opening will take place on Dec. 6 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wiese-Martin said having a soft opening for the pantry before this has allowed for some early troubleshooting.

“We wanted to get a few systems in place,” she said. Factors that have been analyzed since the food pantry’s opening have included the items offered there and the pantry’s hours of operation; additionally, a composting system for unused produce has been established.

Though it has not yet been open for a full month, the food pantry has already been well-received.

“We’ve gotten lots of positive feedback from students and staff,” Wiese-Martin said.

Wiese-Martin said she and other people involved with the food pantry are happy to see this project come to fruition.

“We’re very excited to be getting it off the ground,” she said.

The Bay College Student Food Pantry, located in room 232 of the Catherine Bonifas Building, is open from 3 to 5 p.m. on Mondays, from 3 to 8 p.m. on Wednesdays, and from 1 to 3 p.m. on Fridays. The pantry, which is an agency partner with the Feeding America West Michigan program, adheres to the Feeding America Standards of Conduct and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Civil Rights. For more information, contact Wiese-Martin at 906-217-4133 or martinj@baycollege.edu.

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