Western introduces food bank for students

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Missouri Western’s campus will be seeing a new addition in the form of a food bank this month.

The food bank is located in Blum 214 and opened on Thursday, September 8. The official ribbon cutting ceremony will be held on Thursday, September 24, and anyone is welcome to come.

The food bank will allow students to fill up two bags of food, free of charge. This is limited to twice per month per student. It will be open to full- and part-time students on campus who will need to show their student ID.

The food bank will be open on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. during the entire year. It will be run by volunteers, and anyone is welcome to volunteer including faculty, students and staff.

One of the volunteers and organizers involved is Elise Hepworth, the music director at Western.

Hepworth is no stranger to volunteering. After working with Rotary International and working on projects with Big Brothers and Big Sisters – as well as doing food drives for the food pantry – she is very excited to see the Missouri Western food bank take off.

“The Rotaract club wanted to host a project that was meaningful and impacted our student body.  A food pantry didn’t exist on our campus prior to this project, and we were happy to fill the void,” Heptworth explained the club’s motive.

Hepworth said that Rotaract saw a opportunity to help students and that the food pantry would be a great way to start. Their ultimate goal is  to reach out and to help others.  She can’t estimate yet how many students will take advantage of the opportunity but they will be collecting data over the next six months to see the impact of the food bank.

Western’s volunteers work closely with Second Harvest, St. Joseph’s community food bank. Executive Director Chad Higdon thinks that college students can profit from a food bank as much as people from any other age group.

“Second Harvest finds hunger through all ages and college students are just starting their career and they study long hours. This food bank will be a great opportunity for students to get food, no questions asked,” Higdon said.

Hepworth adds that “Our area has a high percentage of food insecurity, and it carries over into college.”

But volunteering, helping others and “remembering that we are human”, as Heptworth said, is not only giving but also about building a community.

She said the greatest rewards she has gained through volunteering is the “family” she has met.

Part of this family is Mashel Keplinger, a student volunteer.

When asked what advice she might give someone looking to volunteer, Keplinger said “don’t hesitate: go for it.”

Keplinger is the president of Rotaract, which is a branch of Rotary International. Keplinger is also part of the group Lingering Melodies, which visits hospice patients and sings to them.

Another student on campus, Jackie Mott, commented on the food bank.

“It could help both traditional and non-traditional students. People who don’t have a lot of money can go out and get groceries but want to still get their degree… the food bank can help them,” Mott said.

There is often only a main focus on students in grade school and high school or older adults, and college students often get overlooked. While trying to balance school and food, sometimes the need for food gets left behind. This will also be an opportunity for students to get out there and volunteer and get involved.

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