The Newman University Student Government Association (SGA) has recognized the need for a food pantry-like entity on campus for the past year. As of Oct. 12, 2020, that need has been fulfilled.
It was a year ago in an SGA meeting that former senator Ashley Sweetnam presented the idea to create a food pantry on campus. Sweetnam graduated in May and was not able to see the project through. Thankfully, her friends in SGA pushed to make it happen even after she’d gone.
Senator Jonathan Lui took the lead on the project along with a committee consisting of treasurer Martin Pham, senator TaTy’Terria Gary, former senator Madeleine Dellinger and vice president Mac Foley.
The Jets Resource Hub (JRH) will serve the entire Newman community and is stocked with nonperishables. The group hopes to expand and offer women’s’ hygiene products and toiletries soon. The JRH is open to anyone in need, free of charge.
Lui said, “Students are encouraged to stop by and take any items they need and do not need to be in financial insecurity to utilize the space.”
From the start, a major goal of the space was to create a welcoming atmosphere where anyone from any background felt comfortable using the JRH.
Director of Multicultural Engagement and Campus Life Joseph Shepard said, “The purpose of the Hub is to provide all students, no matter their need, with the resources needed to thrive in and outside of the classroom. The beauty of the Resource Hub is that students don’t need to meet any qualifications in order to take advantage of the space. If they’re hungry or in need for any reason, they can visit the Resource Hub.
“We want to work to destigmatize using the Resource Hub as much as we can, that is why we want to remove any barriers that may exist.”
Shepard and Lui met on an ongoing basis to make the idea of an on-campus food pantry a reality.
“I began working with Senator Jonathan Liu to develop the framework for the Resource Hub as well logistics such as items the hub would offer and hours it would be open,” said Shepard.
“We were grateful for Dr. Yelando Johnson (Bachelor of Social Work program director) to offer the social work lounge space after discussion about possible locations on campus that would be both accessible to students and spacious enough to house the space.
“This project has been one year in the making and I am so excited to see it come to fruition,” he concluded.
SGA President Gabrielle Altenor sees the JRH as a manifestation of the Newman Code.
She said, “I think the Newman community needed this initiative to ensure that everyone has access to basic necessities. … SGA knows that academic excellence and a culture of service are expected of the Newman community and we also know that this can be nearly impossible and very stressful to do when you don’t have the basics. The Jets Resource Hub became necessary for Newman to make sure that all our students have what they need to be successful here and once they graduate.”
Lui agreed, saying college can be a challenge in and of itself, and the challenge of questioning where a next meal may be coming from is a huge distraction.
“Having a space like the Jets Resource Hub is a testament to Newman University’s dedication to its students as well as its strong, supportive community,” he said.
Lui said he is proud to use his privilege as an SGA senator to create meaningful change on campus.
“Newman University has a strong community and support system, and I am proud to have the Jets Resource Hub be another additional resource for the community,” said Liu.
The JRH is located in McNeill Hall, room 123. It is currently open Monday and Friday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. with plans to expand hours as needed.
Alumna and Wichita police officer Veronica Hill made the first large food donation to the JRH and SGA created a small budget to help stock the hub.
Donations can be delivered to the Student Life Office in Dugan Library.
Nonperishables and toiletry donations accepted include instant noodles, boxed pasta, canned goods, granola bars, crackers, energy bars, peanut butter, single-serving sized cereal, baby food, nuts and dried or canned fruit, applesauce, herbs and spices, hand sanitizer, travel size lotion, deodorant, toothbrushes, toothpaste and bars of soap.
SGA is currently working on funding streams where cash donations can be accepted.