The Johnson City Salvation Army and East Tennessee State University’s Bucky’s Food Pantry have teamed up to battle hunger on the ETSU campus.
Every Wednesday through the start of the fall semester, the Salvation Army’s Mobile Hope canteen will be parked just outside the D.P. Culp Center from 11 a.m.-1 p.m., serving free lunches to anyone who is hungry and helping volunteers from the campus pantry spread the word that food is available to anyone in need.
Volunteer board members for the nonprofit pantry, which opened in April in the ETSU Mountain States Health Alliance Athletic Center, said the Salvation Army’s regular presence on the campus has already done a great deal to increase awareness that the pantry is there for any student, staff or faculty member who does not have enough to eat and that the pantry is in need of support from those who do.
“We came together (to open the pantry) after we learned there are students who are going hungry, students who have their education paid for but are living in their cars and having food issues and security issues,” said Carolyn Bond, who works in the Sherrod Library and is one of several ETSU staff members who volunteer at the pantry and serve on its advisory board.
Through the spring and summer semesters, Bond said the pantry has registered 15 students and staff members who are now receiving its assistance with food every two weeks. Board member Tom Hill said applications for the pantry’s help are confidential, and because of the pantry’s access to both upper and lower level entrances at the mini-dome, food pick-up is convenient, private and secure.
Bond said dietary and budgeting counseling are also available at the pantry along with referrals to other social services on the ETSU campus and in the local community that may be needed, including those of the Salvation Army’s Center of Hope on Ashe Street just a few blocks from the campus.
Scott Blevins, director of the Salvation Army’s emergency kitchen and shelter, said although the free Wednesday lunches from the canteen are available to anyone regardless of need and intended to raise awareness that food from the pantry and from the Salvation Army are available, the lunches are also meeting a need in their own right.
Looking over the crowd waiting for lunch Wednesday in a line that stretched from the canteen’s parking spot in front of Stone Hall to the Culp’s Center lower-level entrance, Blevins said he recognized at least a dozen people who have come to the Salvation Army for meals since the canteen began serving lunch on campus in late May.
“These lunches are for anyone but if you look between the lines, there is need here. There are a lot of students, a lot of workers, a lot of people who come up here who could benefit from a good lunch,” he said.
Blevins credited the popularity of the canteen, which served 226 people during its last visit to ETSU and was prepared for an even larger crowd Wednesday, to a couple of key factors. “Word’s getting out that we’re here. And, too, I think people are catching on that we do a pretty good lunch.
“We partnered with Bucky’s Pantry, hoping people would come here and we could identify students or anyone else who needs food. We have hot meals every day at the Center of Hope and if some one is in need of food this is to expose them to that.”
Awareness of the need for support for the ETSU pantry is also growing. Sydney Manis, a pantry volunteer and board member, said financial support for the pantry is coming from people who learn about it at the Salvation Army lunches and contact the pantry later to offer their support. The Salvation Army’s last visit to the campus generated more than $100 in donations, including those made at the pantry’s information table at the front of the canteen.
Bond said the pantry expects the need for food to increase when students return to campus in August and the pantry is planning a grand-opening celebration for the fall semester to make sure everyone knows it’s there.
In the meantime, nonperishable food donations may be brought to the pantry, located in room W277 just inside the mini-dome’s second-level entrance, or placed in collection barrels at the ETSU College of Medicine, the ETSU Facilities Management Building on Dossett Drive and at the Chik-fil-A restaurant on North State of Franklin Road, where every donation is good for a coupon for a free menu item.
Applications for food assistance and more information about how to the help the pantry is available online at firstname.lastname@example.org or may be obtained by calling Bond at 439-4234.
If there is a need or a project in your neighborhood the Good Neighbor column can assist with, contact Sue Guinn Legg at email@example.com, P.O. Box 1717, Johnson City, TN 37605 1717 or 929-3111, ext. 335.