One of the most discussed and debated issues in the Student Government Association the last few years has been the inclusion of a food pantry on campus, but it no longer has to be, as the administration has spoken. No matter if SGA supports the project or not, a food pantry will be on campus soon.
Nearly two years ago, then-Senator Mary Beth Rosenauer put forth the idea of an on-campus food pantry and SGA did not execute it. Earlier this semester, Senator Brian Shewell proposed the idea for a food pantry again, and again it was nixed by the SGA.
“I am extremely excited for it, because I think it’s one of those things that is a need, but it hasn’t been addressed yet,” Shewell said.
Working with Second Harvest, the Rotaract has stepped forward to lead the charge for an on-campus food pantry and with the support of administration, Western will soon have an option for students that need help getting through the semester.
While some students have the need for a service like this, SGA’s concern in the past has been the lack of a plan to prevent students from abusing the pantry and a taking food to save a few dollars despite not really needing it, or to avoid making a trip to Wal-Mart or HyVee.
Rotaract Advisor Elise Hepworth acknowledged that that may be a concern, but that the possible positives outweigh any concerns. She said that the pantry will rely on honesty from students.
The pantry would be open for students twice a week and students would have the opportunity to get items from the pantry twice a month.
Also, students would of course be encouraged to give to the pantry as well to keep it well-stocked for those students and families in need.
The pantry will be in Blum 214, which is the former offices of the Western Activities Council. WAC has since moved to the SGA Suite, but many SGA members, including President Daniel Hager, were under the impression that those offices were still SGA rooms. However, that space is now going to house the food pantry whether SGA supports it or not.
“It’s not necessarily a student versus administration thing: it is a question of where does the SGA have power and influence on change for this campus,” Hager said.
Shewell argues that this endeavor is more worthwhile than anything the offices are currently used for.
“I don’t think the administration pulled the rug out from under our feet,” Shewell said. “It wasn’t being used, if it was being used it was being used for student class groups to meet to do homework… If it’s going to be used now then let it be used.”
While Hager admits the timing of his concerns being voiced was less than ideal, that does not change the validity of his concerns.
“I’m trying to do my job and make sure that the senators know I’m not just here to be played,” Hager said. “They should question authority all the time.”
Shewell also expresses that fault can be taken on both sides for poor communication.
“Yes, it would have been nice to let SGA know about it, you know what: there’s a lot of things that SGA does that would have been nice to let other people know about as well,” Shewell said.
While the food pantry debate is resolved now, Hager feels that this situation points to a bigger issue.
“My biggest thing is just making sure that the senators question authority rather than be submissive to it,” Hager said.
Hager is quick to also point out that the SGA likely would have improved the use of the space. The lack of communication between students and faculty is still a valid concern for Hager.
“It was just the professionalism of it,” said Hager. “We don’t need to point fingers or fight over something that’s going to benefit our campus. I think it’s just more of a power thing.”