MARYVILLE, Mo. – When the Second Harvest Food Bank learned of college students in its service area who were struggling with food security, the organization decided it wanted to help and is partnering with Northwest Missouri State University by providing boxes of food to students in need.
“Second Harvest understands the burden that the pandemic has created with individuals of all ages,” Blake Haynes, the communications coordinator for Second Harvest, said. “Many students have lost jobs and are having to make critical choices within their day-to-day lives. We are providing these boxes so that they won’t have to worry about when and where their next meal will come, thus assisting with decisions having to be made with hunger.”
Second Harvest, which is based in St. Joseph, Missouri, and serves 19 counties in northwest Missouri and northeast Kansas, including Nodaway County, contacted Northwest last week with an offer to support students who are food insecure. Northwest’s Office of Student Affairs then connected with students who are staying in Maryville and have submitted requests for assistance from the Pay it Forward fund, informing them of the opportunity.
On April 24, the Missouri National Guard, assisting on behalf of Second Harvest, delivered 50 boxes of food, each weighing about 50 pounds, to the Northwest campus. Second Harvest obtained the food boxes as a result of the COVID-10 pandemic and will provide them on a weekly basis until the end of the spring semester or as long as the food boxes are available. The contents of each box is unique, but all of them contain vegetables, fruit and an entrée, such as pasta.
Northwest staff members unload boxes of food that were delivered to campus last week by the Missouri National Guard. (Photo by Brandon Bland/Northwest Missouri State University)
“Providing nutritious food to our students is critical during this time of need, and Second Harvest Food Bank greatly assisted this effort by donating 50 prepackaged boxes of food last week and another delivery yesterday,” Sue Nickerson, a coordinator in the Office of Student Affairs, said. “Second Harvest Food Bank reaching out to assist our students and the National Guard delivering food boxes to campus is a true reflection of helping each other through this challenging time.”
Sid Dulam and Akhila Puli were among several students who visited the Student Union last week to pick up boxes of food. Both are graduating this spring with master’s degrees in applied computer science, but the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted their semester and their future plans. Both have lost income since their student employment on campus went away when the University moved its courses online for the remainder of the semester.
They hope to return to their homes in India soon but remain uncertain about when that day may come. Their career plans remain clouded also as Dulam looks for a job in data analysis and Puli looks into development operations.
“With the pandemic going around, it is very difficult to sustain in this situation away from home,” Puli said. “I lost my on-campus job due to COVID-19. It was very difficult for me to pay for my expenses. During this crisis time it was very helpful for me with the food items provided.”
Northwest launched its Pay It Forward Fund in 2008 to provide assistance to students who are struggling financially while engaging them with resources to be successful financially, socially and academically. The fund aims to help students pay for needs such as supplemental textbooks and course supplies, unexpected medical costs, tuition assistance or emergency transportation while encouraging the student receiving the assistance to “pay it forward” at a later time.
In late March, Northwest launched a campaign to assist students through the uncertainties of the COVID-19 pandemic – such as loss of income, changes in their housing arrangements and other obstacles. Within a few days, the Bearcats Helping Bearcats Campaign collected more than $13,000 with the help of lead gifts from Northwest Foundation Board members and staff in the Office of University Advancement.
Since early April, the Pay It Forward Committee has received 163 requests for assistance. Northwest has fulfilled most of those requests, assisting 88 students with an average award of $335. The more than $29,000 in assistance provided to those students helps them purchase food and pay rent or utility bills.
However, with dozens of students still needing assistance, the Pay It Forward Fund is nearly empty and the dollar amount of requests not granted totals about $18,750.
Additionally, Northwest’s Bearcat Food Pantry provides a source of food and necessities for Northwest students and employees. Items include canned, boxed and commercially packaged food items as well as personal hygiene items. Its shelves, however, have been mostly emptied during the COVID-19 pandemic also.
Individuals can make a secure, online donation to the Bearcats Helping Bearcats Campaign by visiting www.nwmissouri.edu/alumni/giving/bearcatshelpingbearcats.htm