An effort to help students overcome food insecurity is uniting the Tennessee Tech campus.
The focal point of the effort is Tech’s food pantry, which distributes non perishable foods, basic household items and toiletry essentials to students, faculty, staff and any person working at Tech through a third-party company.
Opened in fall 2013, the food pantry feeds 30-35 people a week and thrives on donations. In addition to items, the pantry also needs funds to purchase things that are needed but not always donated.
“We take donations so you collect what you can and take what you can get,” said Michelle Huddleston, assistant director for Tech’s Service Learning Center. “When we are running low on something, I have to have money so I can go to the grocery store and get what we need.”
Those extra needs are met with an annual campus fundraiser, Heating Up the Quad, where departments cook up tasty food and distribute it on campus for a nominal fee during a specified day in October.
“Heating Up the Quad is an initiative by the Tech Togetherness Committee,” Huddleston said. “It helps bring the campus community out of their offices and onto the quad to enjoy some great food and the proceeds go to the food pantry.”
The 2017 version of Heating Up the Quad featured more than 30 teams cooking chili, soup, chowder, wings and desserts. With an estimated crowd of more than 1,000 participants, the event brought in nearly $3,500 for the food pantry.
“It’s fun for departments to come together and get out of the office. It brings everyone on campus together,” Huddleston said. “I was standing out on the quad and looking around and I thought ‘that’s a lot of support for the food pantry.’ It was very amazing.”
Another way of drawing attention to food insecurity is the Tech Backpack Project, which delivers food and drinks to Upper Cumberland school children facing food insecurity over the weekends.
“School age children go home on the weekend and they may not have enough food to eat,” said Matthew Zagumny, professor in the Department of Counseling and Psychology, and faculty head for the Global Learning Village. “That opened the eyes of our students and they wanted to do something about it.”
During September, the seven Tech Learning Villages — Service and Leadership, Arts and Media, Men’s, Engineering, Global, Environmental, and Women’s — collected food for the project. A ‘Pack-a-Pack, Feed a Child Day’ was held in October where students welcomed donations of nonperishable food items or money and stuffed the backpacks.
“They packed 160 backpacks with 10 items each,” Huddleston said. “You do the math. That’s a lot.”
The backpacks were then distributed to students in various counties around the Upper Cumberland.
“We were excited to partner with Michelle and the Service Learning Center,” Zagumny said. “The Pack-a-Pack, Feed a Child Day is going to be an annual event. We might be able to piggyback with Heating Up the Quad to really draw attention to food insecurities in our community.”
For more information on the food pantry log on to http://ttufoodpantry.weebly.com/ttu-food-pantry.html.
The Tennessee Tech campus was able to enjoy some good chili, soup, chowder, wings and desserts recently during Heating Up the Quad.
More than 1,000 people turned out for Heating Up the Quad in October. The event raised almost $3,500 for Tech’s food pantry.