Ainsley McCarthy

Editor’s note: This story was updated to more accurately report the existence of two separate food pantries.

(Rock Hill, S.C.) — There are a number of groups at Winthrop University working to support students facing food insecurity with food pantries that are open to all, so students can grab what they need with no questions asked.

The Dean of Students office and the Department of Human Nutrition host two separate food panties to ensure Winthrop students don’t go hungry.

The importance of access to food is not lost on many within the Winthrop community. Roughly 40% of Winthrop students face some form of food insecurity, which is higher than the national average for four year colleges, which sat at 29% during the fall 2020 semester, according to a report from the Hope Center for College, Community and Justice.

The food shelf in the Dean of Students office utilizes products left over from previous food drives, stocking necessities like canned fruit and ramen noodles, as well as personal items like washcloths. It’s located in room 247 of the DiGiorgio Campus Center and is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., when not in use for meetings.

Assistant Dean of Students Miranda Knight said the pantry was started in 2014 by a retiree in the Student Activities office who noticed students were spending time there eating lots of candy or going without lunch altogether.

That employee began compiling snacks in her desk drawers, until more space was needed. Knight did the same and shelves were installed for more robust storage in 2017.

The Dean of Students office has made several partnerships, including with local churches and residence halls to pull leftover unopened items, at the end of semesters, which are easy to cook and have a stable shelf life.

“We’ll do drives, we’ll ask for donations – and people want to help – they come out of the woodwork, like they really really want to help people on campus and community members,” said Knight.

The Department of Human Nutrition hosts a pantry called the Food Box, located in 308 Dalton Hall, which includes a full refrigerator. Since 2018, it has offered canned meats, fruits, vegetables, cereal, rice, pasta, peanut butter, condiments and dairy products, such as milk, cheese and yogurt.

Department Chair Wanda Koszewski said that just because someone has access to food, it does not necessarily mean that they are food secure.

Koszewski said food insecurity is a lack of access to healthy and nutrient dense foods that properly meets someone’s dietary needs.

“Even though we have very strong pockets of communities that do quite well, we also have strong pockets of communities that are striving to just make ends meet,” Koszewski said.

“I think just part of it is our student population makeup. Part of it is, we still have a lot of first generation college students, part of it is just South Carolina, and then part of it is where we are today with inflation and everything else that is making students even more vulnerable.”

Another community group organizing food drives is led by Kaitny Stroman, the head of the Hunger and Homelessness division of the on-campus organization called Serving Others and Reflecting (or SOAR).

“I’m planning a snack pack for the HOPE of Rock Hill. So we are going to package a few prepackaged bags with snacks like fruit snacks, applesauce, maybe chips in those bags, so that we can give them to the individuals that need it,” Stroman said.

Other campus resources include Sodexo’s Swipe Out Hunger program. Students in need of further assistance can also reach out to Dean Knight or the Department of Human Nutrition.