Guilford tackles food insecurity

A study conducted by the National Student Campaign Against Hunger and Homelessness reported that 44 percent of students cut the size of their meals or skipped meals altogether because there was not enough money. 20 percent did not eat for an entire day for the same reason.

According to a report from Food Hardship in America, the Greensboro/High Point region ranked as a top five metropolitan area in the nation in terms of a high percentage of citizens experiencing food shortages, while 81 percent of households in North Carolina who receive food assistance do not know where their next meal will come from.

The Bonner Center is not ignoring this public issue.

They have established numerous programs to address the issue of food insecurity on campus and in the surrounding community.

“There’s such a need,” said Susan May, student employment coordinator at the Bonner Center. “You wouldn’t think that, at a private school, people would be hungry. There are a lot of hungry students here, and not just students but adults too.”

Several students in the program, including sophomore Jennifer Shoe, have developed a personal connection to their work.

“It hit home for me,” said Shoe. “For my family, it was difficult for us to have money for food because it was on one income. It hit my heart to be able to provide food for those who don’t have it. It’s important what we are doing because some college students might be on their own, and it’s important for them to know that we care.”

One of the Bonner House’s biggest services currently is the Quaker Cupboard, Guilford College’s food pantry officially established in 2014.

Before Quaker Cupboard became official, it began with several students who used a small closet to store food that was open to members of the community. After Regina Gardner was appointed as the new Bonner Scholars Coordinator, the initiative grew. Now, the Quaker Cupboard has amenities such as refrigerators and extra storage shelves.

“There were a lot of students, staff and faculty on campus who would run short at the end of the month,” said May. “It was in this little closet for years. It has expanded from the little closet to an entire room in the Bonner House.”

The service has partnered with many organizations, receiving donations from places such as Food Lion, Deep Roots and Whole Foods.

The Quaker Cupboard has the mission of providing food and toiletries for anyone in need, regardless of financial status. It is a space that is open to the campus community. Junior and Bonner Scholar Zaynah Afada highlighted the struggles students expressed in terms of getting meals.

“I’ve heard complaints from students about not having enough time to go to the cafeteria,” said Afada. “And when they do go to the cafeteria, they don’t have enough time to eat due to classes throughout the day. I do my best to advertise the cupboard as much as I can.”

A recent event the Quaker Cupboard has established is regularly providing warm breakfast in late mornings and early afternoons, using reclaimed food items from the Guilford cafeteria. The cafeteria’s regular weekday breakfast hours are only from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. This is only one of several programs the Quaker Cupboard staff has instituted within their space.

“When they first started, it was just Regina and Anna cooking for people,” said Afada.  “Now, they have this big thing where international students come in to cook a traditional dish. A lot of times, people do come, and the food is really great.”

According to May, the services of the Quaker Cupboard are open to everyone as a means of bringing people together to have those who are food insecure on campus feel welcome in the Guilford community.

“Often times, people simply feel bad,” said May. “They say ‘I’m not as hungry as everyone else, so maybe it’s not for me.’ They don’t want to take somebody else’s food, but it’s really meant for everybody, even if you just want a snack.

“Also, people get embarrassed that they have to go because they are food insecure. They didn’t feel comfortable coming. But since it’s become more open, free and fun, people have been coming more.”

Bonner Scholars have worked to combat food insecurity in the Greensboro community by providing snacks at the Bonner tutoring sites designed for elementary and middle school age children. Working with the children consistently provides the Bonner Scholars an opportunity to establish relationships with people outside of the campus.

“As Bonners, we have certain hour requirements,” said Afada. “As you work with these students, you begin to build that relationship with them, so now it’s not about the hours or just going out there. It’s about building these relationships and continuing them even beyond the Bonner Program.”