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Miami food pantry serves students in need

The Miami University student food pantry is a resource for students on campus suffering from a shortage of food. It started with two small bins in the Student Success Center (SSC) and has since expanded to the third floor of the Crossroads Outpost.

There were many people who were instrumental in the making of the pantry, one of them being Senior Assistant Director of SSC Ashley Hopkins. When Hopkins started at Miami two years ago, the idea for an on-campus pantry was already underway.

"Being a new faculty member at the time, I did not have the capital to make a food pantry," Hopkins said.

She reached out to Sharman Willmore, a faculty member of the kinesiology and health department, who helped her organize the first meeting. Crossroads Outpost board members, Hopkins and Willmore, Oxford Community Choice (OCC) pantry director Bob Ratterman, a Miami international graduate student and a few undergraduate students were all present at this meeting.

"We knew that the international perspective and the graduate perspective were both very important," Hopkins said.

The current food pantry opened its doors in March 2018. The food pantry is organized mainly by the SSC and is partially located at the Crossroads Outpost. Both of these locations are branches of the same food pantry.

"Due to its success and necessity, the food pantry has considered opening a third location at the Interfaith Center," Hopkins said. However, the project has been delayed due to renovations at the Interfaith Center.

Its location in the SSC mainly serves undergraduate students but would not turn away any person in need. The Outpost, on the other hand, sees a diverse group that includes undergraduate students, graduate students and community members.

Access to the OCC pantry requires identification for Butler County, which poses an obstacle that makes it harder for Miami students to acquire food, Crossroads Outpost Manager Vanessa Parsons said. Also some students live off their own income; however, their parents make too much money to qualify for assistance, so they are denied access to the OCC.

The food pantry would not be possible without fiscal support from the community, namely that of Oxford Empty Bowls and the Oxford Community Foundation. Oxford Empty Bowls and the Oxford Community Foundation granted the student food pantry a donation which allowed the food pantry to install refrigerators at Crossroads Outpost, allowing them to offer perishable food items.

The main source of food comes from food drives held on campus, which are typically occur four times each year in SSC. During the most recent food drive, 40 bags and five flats of canned goods were donated, stocking both the closet in SSC and the Crossroads Outpost location with bags left over.

"We keep inventory and make sure that foods do not reach their date of expiration, and if it is getting close, we send it to the OCC pantry," Hopkins explained.

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Although the main purpose of the Miami food pantry is to provide for the hungry student community, it also stores toiletries, feminine products, laundry detergent and some cleaning supplies. The food pantry also accepts unopened products that have not reached their date of expiration. Donations can be brought to room 112 of the Campus Avenue Building located at 301 S. Campus Ave.