November 25th, 2019
Vice President for Student Life Samuel Haynes hadn’t been in his job very long when two students approached him about a problem.
Social work majors Akiyaa Hagen-Depusoir and Sophia Minder, then juniors, had become aware that hunger was an issue for some Bethel students. They wanted to start a campus food pantry.
“Sam took this on, even with a lot of other projects,” said Bethel President Jon Gering at the food pantry’s opening Nov. 4, about a year after the idea was first raised.
“Think about your own favorite meal – maybe something you make or your mother or a friend might make,” Gering continued. “Fellowshipping around the table makes me feel energized. That sense of wellbeing is what I want for our students.”
Bethel joins more than 640 other colleges and universities across the country who are adding or have added a food pantry to the services offered to students.
According to the College & University Food Bank Alliance (cufba.org), low-income students are enrolling in college at increasing rates; 39 percent of undergraduate students were at or below 130 percent of the federal poverty guideline; and the majority of college students are classified as “nontraditional,” meaning they fit one or more of six criteria that include “single parent” and “must provide for dependents.”
All these things add up to a need to help more students with basic daily necessities.
The Bethel College food pantry is also open to faculty and staff. It will have daily hours, and will operate on the honor system. Four student volunteers will oversee the stocking and other maintenance.
At the food pantry’s opening, Haynes pointed out the broad support that has already come in terms of financial and food donations, including from Bethel College Mennonite Church members, Aladdin Food Service (the dining hall contractor) and Kroger ($1,000 in grocery gift cards).
“The most remarkable has been the care and support of our students,” Haynes said, “starting with Akiyaa and Sophia and extending to our student volunteers and others.”
Bethel is a four-year liberal arts college founded in 1887 and is the oldest Mennonite college in North America. Known for academic excellence, Bethel is the highest ranked Kansas private college, at #12, in “Washington Monthly,” Top 200 Bachelor’s Colleges; ranks at #23 in “U.S. News & World Report,” Best Regional Colleges Midwest; is Zippia.com’s highest ranked Kansas small college with the highest earning graduates; has the #10 RN-to-BSN program in Kansas according to RNtoBSN.com; and earned its second-straight NAIA Champions of Character Five-Star gold award, based on student service and academic achievement, all for 2019-20. For more information, see www.bethelks.edu