Flash's Food Pantry Gives Back to the Stark Community
Cereal, peanut butter, pasta, shampoo, soap, toothpaste and baby diapers.
These are some of the many items Flash’s Food Pantry at Kent State Stark are in need of to give a helping hand to people going through hard times.
In November 2015, Flash’s Food Pantry was created thanks to the regional campus’ Undergraduate Student Government. The USG members came up with the idea of opening a pantry as they were curious about food insecurity and the impact of it on the community. There are currently over 500 collegiate food pantries operating in the United States, Kent State Stark being one of them.
According to Feeding America, the food insecurity rate of Stark County in 2017 is nearly 15 percent of the population. In other terms, nearly one in every seven people are struggling with getting a meal on the table.
Flash’s Food Pantry is open to Kent State University Stark students, faculty and staff. Patrons who take advantage of the pantry are allowed twelve food items and three hygiene items per week.
The pantry is a confidential safe-space that requires no personal information to be given. Flash’s Food Pantry does ask patrons to anonymously fill out a short survey every visit to help the organization tailor their goods to the community’s needs.
“This pantry was built on respect and inclusiveness for all students, faculty and staff,” Ashley Brightbill, student activities and services manager said. “The bottom line is that we don’t ask for their FlashCard ID, we trust the people that come in and so far we haven’t run into any issues.”
The pantry kindly accepts food donations, but monetary donations are preferred as it gives the organization purchasing power to buy more goods. The food pantry works with Interfaith Campus Ministry and the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank to buy food directly at a discounted rate.
Fisher Foods, a local grocery store in the community, helped support the pantry’s grand opening, keeping it fully supplied for the first few months. Flash’s Food Pantry also partners with the campus garden at Kent Stark, to seasonally receive a wide variety of vegetables and herbs.
A main issue USG members took interest in while starting the food pantry was debunking the stereotype that just because people can afford to go to college does not automatically mean they can afford to pay for everything else, Brightbill said.
“It is easy to think, ‘Oh you’re going to college, you’re going to get your life together,’” USG President Lainey Ward said. “The truth is, a lot of us are surviving on financial aid. For some, getting through day-by-day is where it is important to understand that the food pantry can be there to help those in need. I think the stereotype is very true, and that alone should raise awareness that we sometimes need assistance in other areas of our life.”
In its two years of being open, Flash’s Food Pantry has recently surpassed its 1,000th guest.
“The pantry encompasses so much of an outreach to the community, and our community here at the Stark campus,” Ward said. “Everyday I feel honored to get to talk to one of the patrons, hear their life story or make them smile. It makes such a difference in my life that I would have never expected.”
From March 20 to April 20, Flash’s Food Pantry is holding a fundraising drive for the Akron-Canton Food Bank to support their Harvest for Hunger campaign, one the food bank’s biggest fundraisers of the year.
The pantry is open Monday through Friday in the lower level of Campus Center from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The pantry is also open three days a week during the summer on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
For more information on Flash’s Food Pantry, or to donate non-perishable food, personal hygiene products or funds, contact Kent State Undergraduate Student Government at KSUStarkUSG@kent.edu.
Brynn Pennell is the regional campuses reporter. Contact her at email@example.com.