Eastern campus food pantry opening


Kyara Morales-Rodriguez

Anne Flaherty and President Glassman cut the ribbon to showcase the new campus food pantry in McAfee on Sept. 30.

Luke Taylor, News Editor

Dozens of administrators, faculty and students gathered in front of McAfee Gymnasium to celebrate the opening of the new Campus Food Pantry.

Beth Gillespie, the director of Civic Engagement and Volunteerism, and her husband Michael Gillespie, a professor in the department of sociology, anthropology and criminology, both spoke about the process of creating the food pantry, which took about eight years.

University president David Glassman and vice president of student affairs Anne Flaherty used a ceremonial set of scissors from the Charleston Area Chamber of Commerce to cut a ribbon, signifying the grand opening of the food pantry.

Beth Gillespie said that as excited as she was about the ribbon cutting, she was more excited for the following day when the pantry opened to students.

“Even better than what today feels like is knowing that we’re able to start taking care of people on our campus who are needing that support,” Beth Gillespie said. “It’s happening more and more with college students, and now we’re able to do something about it and that, you know, doing something to help out people that we care about is I think the very best feeling in the world.”

The food pantry will be open five days a week when classes are in session with a few hours in the morning and evening of most days.

Students and staff will be required to bring their Panther Card as proof of connection with Eastern if they want to pick up food, but they will not be asked for any financial or income information.

Beth Gillespie said that she was inspired to start the Campus Food Pantry after working at the Charleston food pantry and seeing how many people were hiding food insecurity.

“It is it is tremendously easy to hide it if you don’t talk about it. You know, it doesn’t have a look,” Beth Gillespie said. “But it is happening, and it has huge impacts, right, and we know that for students, it impacts how well they’re able to do in a classroom. On professionals, it impact our ability to do well in our jobs.”

Michael Gillespie said that a big part of the research that went into creating the food pantry was the annual surveys he sends out to students which intend to determine what needs can be met for campus residents.

“You know, as a professor and as somebody who’s lives in that research world part time, that’s where my skill set is, and that’s how I can show that there’s a need,” Michael Gillespie said. “You know people like Beth and other people who do other things, who are really in the volunteer world and getting people on board and action- that’s their skill set and we just have the same passion. We come together and combine both worlds.”

These surveys not only determined the need for a food pantry on campus, but they also helped find the best hours for the pantry to be open, how often students might need to pick up food, and what kinds of foods would be preferred.

As of the opening, the pantry has 9,000 pounds of food stocked, alongside casual and business clothes which students can pick up.

Students and faculty can visit the pantry twice a month and pick up food equivalent to about nine meals.

Options for food include ravioli, beans, canned veggies, fruits, soup, cereal, pasta or rice, and macaroni and cheese.

Students cannot pick up food on their roommate’s behalf, but people with dependent children should reach out to CEVO to discuss options for help.

Ceci Brinker, the director of the student life office, was in attendance at the ribbon cutting.

Brinker said that she was inspired by the work that went into making the food pantry a reality and that she was excited that this resource is becoming available to improve student success.

“I think everyone should take it upon themselves to give back and to contribute, especially for those that are more fortunate,” Brinker said. “You know, giving back and contributing, whether it’s donating clothes, whether it’s donating food items or whether it’s donating financially is in the best interest of the entire university.”

The Campus Food Pantry is still looking for volunteers to help get food to students during certain hours. Information on volunteering through CEVO can be found at https://www.eiu.edu/apps/registration/account_index.php?id=2.

Luke Taylor can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected].