The University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee campus recognizes that nothing is more important than the health and wellness of our community, including the more than 2,000 students we serve, which is why the campus is taking steps to address students’ needs during the rapidly evolving COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic.
The campus will open a new food pantry on Monday (March 30) to address food insecurity among some students. The “Support-A-Bull Pantry” will be sustained by campus donations and the Sarasota-based All Faiths Food Bank, which will provide non-perishable items.
Students who wish to sign up to receive donations or make a contribution, may visit /campus-life/support-a-bull-food-pantry.aspx.
At the same time, a special and separate appeal is being made to USF Sarasota-Manatee faculty and staff to support the pantry and other student programs through monetary donations during the annual Faculty and Staff giving campaign, which runs to July.
Faculty and staff may visit https://usffdn.usf.edu/FS_CMPGN/CCUP.aspx and click “USF Sarasota-Manatee” to view funding options.
In addition to the nine funds listed on the site, faculty and staff may direct donations to the pantry by checking the box next to “USFSM Food Pantry Fund.” They can further assist students by contributing to the “Stay the Course Fund,” which provides emergency financial assistance to help students continue their education in these challenging times.
Faculty and staff can contribute to Stay the Course by visiting, https://usffdn.usf.edu/fs_cmpgn/CCUP_details.aspx?area_code=SARFSCC&area_text=USF%20Sarasota-Manatee.
“This is a time when many people are losing their jobs, or at risk of losing their jobs, and they may need extra support to get them through this difficult time,” said Jenni Menon Mariano, PhD, of the School of Education. “It is so critical to support the food pantry and other funds that help our students.”
USF Sarasota-Manatee Regional Chancellor Karen A. Holbrook, PhD, is serving as co-chair of USF’s three-campus Faculty and Staff giving campaign. Mariano and Student Services Coordinator Darren Gambrell are serving as co-chairs of the Sarasota-Manatee campus campaign with support from Vice Chancellor for Advancement Lee Williams and her team.
“People are vulnerable now and shouldn’t have to worry about whether they can continue their education while also addressing the needs of their family and themselves,” Mariano said.
The Support-A-Bull Pantry – accessible to both students and their families – was created by Allison Dinsmore, assistant director of student success at the Sarasota-Manatee campus, Bart Stucker, coordinator of orientation and recreation programs, and the campus’ Food and Housing Insecurity Committee, comprised of students, faculty and staff.
“As members in our campus community experience challenges during these unprecedented times, basic essentials continue to be foremost on the minds of many students,” Dinsmore said. “The pantry is an opportunity to support our students holistically, so they can be successful academically.”
Food insecurity is a growing challenge at colleges. A report last year by the Hope Center for College, Community and Justice estimated that 48 percent of community college students and 41 percent of four-year university students who responded to the center’s survey were food insecure. Food insecurity is defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as lacking consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life. Nearly 86,000 students answered the survey, which was distributed to 123 colleges and universities.
In response to this important issue, increasing numbers of colleges and universities are turning to food pantry programs. The College and University Food Bank Alliance (CUFBA), which launched in 2012 with just 15 schools, now numbers close to 700 campus-based food pantry programs, including many with direct links to local food banks. CUFBA offers toolkits to campuses to start a food pantry.
The USF Sarasota-Manatee pantry is designed to operate simply and confidentially. Students can shop for groceries through the online portal and then pick up their items at a discreet campus site. A worker will distribute the items in plain packaging at a curbside location.
Although students are to remain off campus until at least May 7, according to a university directive, food pantry visits are permissible during this time. In response to concerns about COVID-19, workers packaging and distributing food will observe health and safety precautions, including social distancing. Students picking up items are urged to do the same.
“It has been great to see so many campus and community partners come together in such a short time to support our students by building upon established resources and creating new ones,” said Stucker.
In addition to the pantry, USF Sarasota-Manatee is making additional social services available to students. Students with health and wellness concerns are urged to contact the campus’ Counseling and Wellness Center, which is shared with New College of Florida. To make an appointment, visit www.ncf.edu/cwc or call 941-487-4254.
To learn more about counseling and wellness services, visit: /campus-life/health-and-safety/counseling-and-wellness-center/student-health-services.aspx
For more information about the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee, visit http://www.usfsm.edu.