In recent years, food insecurity has affected both college students and Fairfield University students, specifically, at an increasing rate. Fairfield University Campus Minister Katie Byrnes responded to this issue by organizing a food pantry for student use.
“Since I came to Fairfield five years ago, I have seen a rise in student need,” said Brynes.”
College students are the fastest growing group joining the ranks of the ‘food insecure’ or those who are unsure about where their next meal is coming from.”
The Campus Ministry Food Pantry resides in the lower level of the Egan Chapel of Saint Ignatius of Loyola and is accessible Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
In Fall 2019, the food pantry opened and donations for the pantry began flooding in thanks to a drive held at a university basketball game. Faculty and staff also contributed many items to help launch this initiative, which is something that Brynes deems as an essential service for the student body.
“Hunger is a major issue we address in our service portfolio and it made sense to turn that lens on our own campus,” she remarked. “Being hungry is a major deterrent to learning so it makes sense to help alleviate all barriers to that.”
The pantry receives its supply from both donations as well as through a grant from Stop & Shop. Commuters, beach residents and students living on-campus have all benefited from this food pantry so far. However, the issue of hunger amongst the student body nonetheless persists.
Dean of Students William Johnson believes that the university needs to improve its approach towards this matter. Ideally, students do not wait to hear about the food pantry, but they receive the necessary attention to alleviate their problems with hunger without having to pursue a solution on their own.
“We definitely need to do a better job in this area,” said Johnson.
He cited that the Student Support and Relief Fund has succeeded in connecting students seeking assistance to the services offered by the pantry. This service, he adds, has particularly assisted students with food insecurity during the pandemic.
Before the food pantry, Campus Ministry provided students with access to free snacks or leftover food from various campus events.
However, snacks or hodgepodges of leftovers fail to provide adequate nourishment for students suffering from this serious issue, so the pantry emerged as a necessary measure for the University to take.
“We have been monitoring students who have expressed a lack of access to a reliable source of food for several years now,” said Johnson. “The food pantry is an outgrowth of that endeavor” said Johnson.
Byrnes emphasized how feeding the hungry is an essential Jesuit value. In fact, she stressed that feeding the hungry multitude is the only miracle recorded in all four of the New Testament Gospels.
“Jesus didn’t ask them if they could afford to buy food, and he didn’t teach them to fish or offer them ‘tough love,’” said Brynes. “He saw the need, and he helped them. That’s the work we are called to!”
Any student dealing with hunger or food insecurity should reach out to Katie Brynes directly (firstname.lastname@example.org). For those seeking to donate to the pantry, non-perishable items can be dropped off at Campus Ministry, in the lower level of the Egan Chapel.